ANAHEIM, Calif. — Cuties, the branded mandarins from Pasadena, Calif.-based Sun Pacific, have new friends in the produce department — Mighties brand kiwifruit.
Much like Cuties packaging that features a smiling mandarin with a zipper, labels on Mighties clamshells include a grinning brown, fuzzy kiwi with hands and legs, and a cartoon-like appearance.
“We're capitalizing on the success we had with Cuties brand fruit,” said Victoria Nuevo-Celeste,vice president of marketing.
At the same time, Sun Pacific has inked a deal with McDonald's to make Cuties the fourth option for kids' Happy Meals as well as an a la cart menu item, Nuevo-Celeste said. Already kids had a choice of french fries, apple slices or Go-Gurt.
The arrangement will involve all 14,000 McDonald's locations in the U.S., she said.
“So we're extremely excited because we're partnering with them to market that program,” Nuevo-Celeste said. “This is the first time they will have a whole piece of fruit in Happy Meals.”
Each mandarin will have a sticker identifying it as a Cuties brand, and a serving is considered one mandarin.
“It's two loved brands by both parents and kids,” said Bob DiPiazza, president of Sun Pacific Marketing. “McDonald's will have a strong marketing program to make sure the news gets out to consumers.”
Nuevo-Celeste said McDonald's expects to roll out Cuties in late November, but Mighties will make their retail debut earlier in the month, she said.
Mighties are a rebranding of Sun Pacific's Ripe & Easy kiwis, launched about three years ago.
The Mighties branding is designed to help triple domestic kiwifruit consumption by 2020, DiPiazza said.
“What we're doing with Mighties is making kiwis more accessible,” he said.
The name highlights the fruits powerful nutritional package, which includes high levels of potassium, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K and fiber.
Like the Ripe & Easy brand, Mighties will be preconditioned so they're ready to eat, DiPiazza said. A circle on the Mighties containers still carries the “Ripe & Easy Kiwi” wording.
Each clamshell also comes with a spife — a spoon on one end and a knife on the other — and on-pack sleeves imprinted with instructions about how to slice the fruit and scoop it out to eat.
The fruit will be available in 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-pound clamshells.
Sun Pacific will pack California kiwifruit this fall through about May, then transition to Chilean supplies during the summer. It also may use some Italian fruit to supplement other sources for year-round supply.
DiPiazza said the company is seeking retailers who want to offer a branded kiwi on a long-term basis.
“They need to be consistently available to the consumer, so we're not really for customers who want to come in and out,” he said. “We're looking for people who want to put the display in high-traffic areas to draw the consumer in.”
DiPiazza said the company decided to go with clamshells, because they help deliver a quality product by reducing shrink caused by bruised fruit. It also is easier to rotate packages than individual pieces, also helping to reduce shrink.
As part of the rollout, Sun Pacific will offer Mighties retail point-of-sale materials and bins that pick up on the whimsical kiwifruit character.