Telling the Youth
By Craig Levitt
Product size and packaging can be just as important as taste when marketing to kids in the produce section. "Can I have that?" "No." "Can I have that?" "No." "Can I have that?" "No." It is a conversation that occurs in thousands of grocery stores across the country every day. Children ask for candy, salted snacks, cake, cookies—or any other unhealthy snack items that catch their eye—and parents reply with a responsible “no.” Rarely, however, is a kid waking through the produce section asking, “Can I have that?”More than likely the question is, “Do I have to eat that?” Those that sell their wares in the produce section are trying to change these conversations—at least change where they are taking place. Part of the problem, say industry observers, is that there is nothing in the produce section design to catch the eye of children. “One part of the store that actually doesn’t try to draw kids in and cater to them is the produce section,” says Carolyn Tao, vice president of marketing for Bolthouse Farms, based in Bakersfield, Calif. ‘We have been trying to change that.” The Bolthouse Farms kids line was launched in 2014 and consists of fruit and vegetable based snacks: Kids Smoothies, Kids Fruit Tubes and Kids Veggie Snackers. Part of the products’ allure, says Tao, is the packaging. It is no secret kids are drawn to characters, but Bolthouse wanted the products to be more than just a character on a box. “We wanted to highlight the fruit and vegetable content,” says Tao. “So the fruits and vegetables are the heroes. They are the characters.” It was also important to Bolthouse to keep its kids products playful and fun, which can be seen in the names of its products; for example, Peach Meets Mango Smoothies or Strawberry Meets Banana Kids Tubes. It is like the fruits are meeting for a play date, says Tao. “Our mission is really about expanding the fresh revolution,” she says. “But we want to do that with a twist. So making that packaging fun and irresistible to kids is really important, because we know if we can do that it makes parents’ lives a lot easier.” When marketing to kids, attractive packaging is important, but perhaps just as important is packaging that is easy-to-handle and easily accessible to them. “Kids love taking ownership of their world, from picking out their own school outfits to choosing their own lunch and snack options,” says Terrill Bacon, brand manager for Saginaw, Texas-based Fresherized Foods and its Wholly Guacamole brand. “They are drawn to products that they think they can master, like an easy open product and those that are fun or spark their curiosity.” Bacon says Wholly Guacamole products—with their bright colors, see-through box and easy-open film on top—meet these needs on all counts. “The ability to open a package without help can be a real boost of confidence for a kid,” Bacon adds. “Kids notice a lot,” says Beth Wierzbicki, vice president of marketing for Charles & Alice, a French-based company that now offers 100% Fruit for All in the U.S. “They like colorful packages and photos, and if they see something new, they will most likely inquire about it.” Charles & Alice is currently launching 100% Fruit for All, an all-natural fruit-based product, which Wierzbicki says has the benefits of delicious taste in a colorful range to help increase the appeal of the product amongst kids. It is available in Banana Vanilla, Blueberry, Cherry, Raspberry, Mango and Apricot. Feeding Smaller Mouths Kids are also attracted to foods that are sized appropriately, and portions that are too large can intimidate them. “Growing up, how many times did you hear, ‘finish your meal?’” says Jim Allen, president of the New York Apple Association, based in Fishers, N.Y. “I think children shy away from portions they know they can not finish, such as a large 80 count apple. In New York, we have packers that pack apple teasers and other smaller sized apples for kids.” Chelan Fresh Marketing also offers a smaller apple in kid-friendly packaging. The apple is called the Rockit and is a cross between Rose series apples and a crab apple. Mac Riggan, director of marketing for the Chelan, Wash.-based company, says the Rockit is two-inches in diameter, has a light crispy flesh, is sweet and juicy with a real thin skin, and is very easy for kids to eat. “They have a really small core, its not like eating a small Gala or small Granny Smith,” says Riggan. “These apples grow small, they are fully mature and exceptional eating at that size.” The Rockit’s come in three-, four-, five- and six-count tubes, which Riggan say protects the fruit while also making it a great convenience item. Kids are not the only ones that like kid-sized portions, say observers. For years, mandarins have been a favorite of parents for their kids. “Parents are big fans of our Halos mandarins,” says Adam Cooper, vice president of marketing, insights for Wonderful Halos, a brand of the Wonderful Co., based in Los Angeles. “They are a healthy portable snack choice for about 50 calories and a good source of vitamin C.” Cooper says Wonderful is committed to putting Halos at the top of kids’ shopping lists by teaching them healthy eating habits at an early age. Part of that includes its partnership with the Boy & Girls Clubs of America in which Wonderful donated $100,000 to support healthy programming that provides opportunities for club kids to get active and educate themselves to make smart choices that impact their health, such as snacking. Del Monte Fresh Produce is dedicated to supporting and educating children on the importance fruits and vegetables play in daily diets as well. These educational programs and organizations Del Monte supports include, among others, the Produce for Better Health and the United Fresh “Salad Bar in Every School” campaign. “Introducing fresh fruits and vegetables to children at an early age is critical in developing long-term healthy eating habits,” says Dionysios Christou, vice president marketing for Coral Gables, Fla.-based Del Monte Fresh Produce. “There are many ways to make eating fruits and vegetables ‘fun’ for kids, for example, involving them in kid-friendly recipes. It is also important to offer kids a variety of great tasting options as it is a useful strategy in expanding fruit and vegetable intake.” Some of Del Monte’s kid-friendly products include the recently launched Del Monte Fresh Cut Spear Multipacks, which are available in two varieties. Del Monte Gold Fresh Pineapple Spear Multipack includes five individually wrapped 2.7-ounce Del Monte Gold Extra Sweet Pineapple spears and the Del Monte Fresh Watermelon Spear Multipack, which includes five individually wrapped 2.7-ounce Del Monte firm flesh watermelon spears. Another school program geared toward helping kids eat better is the Fuel Up to Play 60 program, of which Chelan is part. “The NFL (National Football League) is part of the ‘Play 60,’ we, with our apples, are part of the ‘Fuel Up,’” says Riggan. “Millions of kids are engaged during the school year in PE and health classes about eating better and being active,” he says. “So they see these graphics and we are able to tie that in with POS material, display bins and polybags. When kids go into the store, the hope is they see that and say ‘hey mom, that is one of the fuel items from the Fuel Up to Play 60 program.’ It is that kind of recognition. Making products handy right there in the grocery store, that is a way to engage kids to eat more.” Bolthouse, with the launch of its kid’s products, has been partnering with its retailers to create a healthy snacking section for kids in the produce aisle. Tao says this type of area does not exist in most retailers, but that some have bought into the idea, most notably Giant Eagle. “Giant Eagle is the Gold Standard. They bought in whole-heartedly; created this whole section and have seen really great results, not just for our products, but for all products in the section because now kids know where to go for healthy snacks,” she says.