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JetBlue's New Mentoring Program Helping Small, Responsible Food Companies Get Off the Ground

JetBlue Airways recently launched its first business mentoring program, called BlueBud (buddies + budding new companies), which will offer small and startup responsible food companies an opportunity to get their businesses off the ground (pun intended) and their products onboard commercial aircraft.

BlueBud offers mentorship to small food companies that are creating unique and novel concepts, helping them to connect with a diverse group of customers and maintain responsible practices. Participants will get special access to JetBlue's business leaders, who will offer participants access to the airline's unique product development culture, as well as valuable industry insights.

The first BlueBud is focused on food companies from New York State. Applications are being accepted until April 6, 2015.

"We haven't forgotten what it's like to start as a small company that wants to make a difference," said Sophia Mendelsohn, JetBlue's head of sustainability. "This program gives us an opportunity to support small food companies with compelling ideas that align with our belief that just because you're traveling, your health and conscience don't have to suffer. We're proud of the products and foods produced in New York State that also consider environmental impact and these are our first choices to serve onboard and in our airports."

Companies selected for the inaugural BlueBud program will participate in a weeklong mentorship that includes:

  • A tour of JetBlue Airways Long Island City Support Center (what other companies would call Headquarters), JFK's Terminal 5 and an airline catering station, all designed to help participants understand how food (literally) gets onboard JetBlue.

  • A trip to JetBlue University in Orlando and participation in the airline's crewmember orientation to understand JetBlue business development and community-building, giving participants a feel for JetBlue's values and what the company looks for in partners.

  • A speaker and taste-testing event opportunity for JetBlue's Crewmembers at Long Island City Support Center.

  • Face time with JetBlue teams including Strategic Sourcing, Purchasing, Corporate Social Responsibility, Sustainability, Communications, Marketing, Brand and Onboard Product. Participants will get a better understanding of how a once-small company feels about getting big.

  • Work space and access to conference rooms.

  • Travel certificates to and from New York for relevant company members to join in specific meetings approved by JetBlue and the partner company.

"Getting onboard an aircraft as a food partner is not an easy task, so what better learning experience is there than getting first-hand knowledge directly from those that pick new menu selections," said Jamie Perry, JetBlue's VP of brand and product development. "JetBlue has already helped put several small food brands on the map. We look forward to cultivating relationships with other burgeoning food brands that are also conscious of their impact."

While airlines haven't historically been associated with fresh and responsible foods, JetBlue's product development and sustainability teams work to ensure there are nutritious options available on all onboard food and beverage menus.

Applications are now being accepted from companies with focuses in the following categories:

  • Responsible foods — focusing on positive environment and social impact
  • Tasty foods — that are nutritious and conscious of targeted needs
  • Informed foods — that are innovative, diverse and part of a curated JetBlue experience
  • Homegrown foods — companies with a connection to the airline’s New York home base

While JetBlue is looking for responsible companies to partner with, it is also looking to ensure its own long-term sustainability, by helping to ensure the wellbeing of its most popular destinations: In December, the airline, with the help of The Ocean Foundation, released a first-of-its-kind report correlating the health of its bottom line with the long-term health of ecosystems in the Caribbean. The collaboration marks the first time a commercial airline has attempted to quantify nature's wellbeing and directly correlate it to product revenue. The result, EcoEarnings: A Shore Thing, begins to quantify the value of conservation by Revenue per Available Seat Mile (RASM), the airline's base measurement.

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