College Students Scoop Top 10 Ranking in Unilever Competition

A team of Manhattan students recently placed in the Top 10 of the UniGame, an international business contest from the owners of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

If you’re a Manhattan College faculty member, administrator or student that Jaclyn Marchetta ’18 interfaces with regularly, you might have received a text and/or email reminder from her shortly after Thanksgiving. Student scooping ice cream.

The chemical engineering major, who interned last summer in Unilever’s research and development department, had been urging her community to vote for the YouTube video that she and two fellow Jaspers, Dan McCloskey ’15 and Melissa Gallardo ’19, had submitted in order to enter into the UniGame, an international business competition that challenges undergraduate and graduate students to innovate proposals that help the company tackle real business needs. 

After a two-week period ending on Dec. 15, their video had notched 3,700 votes, and ranked second in popularity among more than 160 teams in the U.S. and Canada. The team’s submission, which outlined their plan to increase winter sales of Ben & Jerry’s, a Unilever brand, had also earned them a Top 10 ranking in the competition, and placement in the final round, scheduled to take place two months later.

“I saw that we were the creators of our own success,” said Marchetta, who will begin a full-time position at Unilever this summer, shortly after her college graduation. “As our video moved up from seventh to second place in a few days, I was motivated to reach out to as many people as I could.”

A Healthy-ish Competition

During the first week in February, Marchetta, McCloskey, and Gallardo headed to the Unilever headquarters in New Jersey, and went head-to-head with the competition's other contendors by pitching their idea for making Ben & Jerry’s ice cream a year-round dessert experience: floats that paired cold-weather beverages with flavors of the popular brand. (For instance, one drink option combines hot chocolate with vanilla bean ice cream, and is served with marshmallows, chocolate shavings, and hot fudge.)

The frosty treats could be sold at seasonal pop-up shops, such as the Winter Village at Bryant Park, and marketed through social media by millennials. They’d be Instagram-able, as well as sustainable — edible or wooden spoons would be included with purchases, and sold in glass mugs rather than plastic cups, in efforts to reduce waste.

A cost analysis for the business venture was performed by McCloskey, a chemical engineering graduate student who presented his findings to a panel of five judges. The report accounted for numerous expenses associated with the product rollout, including furniture and rental fees for the pop-up shop they planned to set up, as well as funding for advertising, mugs and float toppings, hot drinks, employees, and of course, the ice cream.

“We had to understand all points of the supply chain, and the coordination that goes on between both ends,” said McCloskey. “We looked at finance, marketing and business. It was a learning experience, in seeing how they all tie together.”

Although the Manhattan UniGamers did not walk away with its top prize, they did utilize a wide-ranging set of skills necessary for the workplace. Gallardo, a communication major, created the team’s YouTube submission with video-editing techniques she learned in the classroom. She also incorporated knowledge gleaned from advertising and public speaking courses she’s taken at the College.

During the fall semester, Gallardo was a public relations and entertainment marketing intern at U.N.I.C.E.F., and last summer, worked as a social media and marketing intern at the nonprofit Together We Rise. The UniGame allowed her to combine her academic and cocurricular experiences.   

“I was glad to have used tools I learned in my major and my internship [at U.N.I.C.E.F.], which allowed me to bring forth ideas for social media. For our whole team, the competition helped us each work outside of our own academic majors. We had a broad perspective of what to focus on, and focus on our individual tasks, which was really great,” she said.  

Spreading Awareness Across Campus

Upon their return to Riverdale, the group was able to showcase their talents in a different way. Donning the complimentary windbreakers they received at Unilever’s headquarters, Marchetta, McCloskey and Gallardo helped distribute Ben & Jerry’s (which uses fair trade ingredients in its ice cream) at an event on campus that recognized Manhattan’s six-year status as a Fair Trade Certified College. Between scoops, the team helped spread awareness on the importance of purchasing goods that are produced through sustainable labor practices. They also had the opportunity to tell the campus community about their participation in the UniGame. Their adeptness at both proved that dedication, a sustainable business plan, and a touch of sweetness is often the best recipe for long-lasting success. Especially when it comes with sprinkles.