Talking Shop with… Arjan Stephens

The executive vice president of sales and marketing for Nature’s Path says new, consistent packaging will increase sales.

Grocery Headquarters: Tell us about the state of the organic category?
Arjan Stephens: The organic food sector is growing strong despite the economic climate. In 2010 organic food sales grew 3% more than conventional food sales. Retailers can expect to generate more revenue and attract more shoppers to their store by positioning this growing and profitable category for success.

What can retailers do to help build the overall category?
Consumers want an organic option—but they also want convenience and don’t want to spend too long trying to find it. Retailers can help consumers find these options by integrating organic products into conventional shelf sets. Shelf talkers and point-of-sale materials are also helpful tools to draw attention to the availability of organic products. Bringing in organic brands direct to grocery stores allows retailers to list the product at a more competitive and affordable rate which is attractive to the conscious consumer.

What is new at Nature’s Path?
Our family-run company has taken on quite a huge and exciting project—a packaging and logo re-design. Since my parents founded Nature’s Path more than 25 years ago, both our company and the organic industry have witnessed tremendous growth. Some of the products in the Nature’s Path line date back to the mid-1980s while others are just a few months old. We thought it was time to bring them all together under one approachable design that reflects our long-term commitment to taste, health and sustainability.

How did you decide on the new look?
Armed with consumer and retailer insights, we hired a leading packaging design firm to help us with the makeover. We then took these designs into research with qualitative focus groups and quantitative “eye tracking” tests. The latter form of research gauges how shoppers (both Nature’s Path users and non-users) react to the packaging as a part of a shelf set in a competitive environment allowing us to make a truly informed decision. The chosen Nature’s Path design actually tested in the top tier of all designs ever tested by the research firm.

What are some of the features of the new packaging?
An important feature is that while the logo has been amended, it is still easily recognizable to existing Nature’s Path users. The design’s overall consistency provides better brand blocking and findability on shelf, which we believe will help boost cross-category trial. The new look better communicates flavors and taste in an authentic way through appetizing photos of real ingredients. Key nutritional call-outs allow the health benefits to be easily scannable.

How do you think shoppers will react to the new packaging?
Nature’s Path users and non-users alike reacted very positively to the new packaging in research, so we have high hopes for a great reception in store. Shoppers told us that the new packaging has higher taste, health and value appeal that leads to greater purchase intent. While thrilled, we were not completely surprised; the new design is actually an adaptation of our successful 2010 granola bar packaging change that resulted in sales lifts as high as 132%. Some of our largest grocery customers witnessed their sales triple over night on a per store basis with that launch.

When will the new design be available on shelf?
We are unveiling the fresh new packaging design and updated logo with the launch of Heritage Crunch, an extension our successful Heritage Flakes cereal that has experienced a 15% growth rate as of late. The new design will be applied to existing packaging over the next year. Retailers will be pleased to hear that there will be no UPC or net weight changes in this transition—only better brand blocking and the opportunity for category growth.

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