Companies seek different segments of the family niche with various targeted brands.
Steve Lutz, vice president of marketing for Columbia Marketing International, Wenatchee, Wash., said the company’s Hero brand is targeted to grade-school children.
“We’ve found in consumer testing and though our work with schools that kids that age are really receptive to the message, and their parents are supportive as well because the message is targeted, but healthy,” he said.
Mac Riggan, marketing director for Chelan Fresh Marketing, Chelan, Wash., agreed kids age 4-12 are a good age to target.
The company is participating in the NFL Fuel Up to Play 60 campaign, which is directed at children under 12.
“They are exposed to the program at school and when watching games on Sunday afternoons with their families, so they recognize those logos and respond well,” Riggan said.
The product itself also affects what ages are targeted.
“The age group is going to vary depending on the product, but for bananas, we think the Sesame Street age is perfect,” said Mayra Velazquez de Leon, president of Organics Unlimited, San Diego.
On the other end of the spectrum, toddlers aren’t ready for some popular fruits and vegetables.
“We can’t target kids that are too young because apples might be difficult to eat, so we’re focused on pre-school-aged kids and up,” said Brianna Shales, communications manager for Stemilt Growers LLC, Wenatchee, Wash.
However, Shales said parents are actually the most important group to reach.
“Ultimately, we’re targeting parents. If their kid has a great experience with the product, they will probably repeat that purchase,” she said.
Depending on the age group, some tactics may work better than others.
Tony Freytag, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Crunch Pak, Cashmere, Wash., said the company has two age groups to target.
“The relationship between Marvel and Crunch Pak reaches boys ages 6-10 years old, who need better product choices in the healthy snacks category, while our relationship with Disney reaches kids aged 3-5,” he said.
For younger children, companies have seen a lot of success in simply making their products more appealing to children.
“While kid-friendly packaging is a must if you are trying to reach families with little ones, I don’t believe you have to engage popular characters to do so,” said Trish James, vice president of Produce for Kids, Orlando, Fla.
However, popular television characters can also be effective.
The Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association launched its Eat Brighter! campaign in March, creating a partnership with Sesame Street characters and produce companies. The program is targeted to kids age 2-5.
“We need to make an impression on kids as they are forming their habits and ideas. It’s much easier to get them on the right path than change it later,” said Kathy Means, vice president of government relations and public affairs.
Brittany Wilmes, program coordinator for the Milwaukie, Ore.-based Pear Bureau Northwest, agreed.
“We typically target younger elementary students. Our Pear Buddy mascots appeal to younger kids, and the LazyTown show targets earlier grades as well. By starting with younger children, we are doing our part in encouraging healthier lifestyles for the next generation,” she said.
With older children, some companies have found that using licensed characters can be helpful.
“As a mom, my boys’ preferences do influence my purchases and I have seen them become more opinionated as they are getting older. Characters or public figures — especially sports players, in my house — certainly resonate with them,” James said.
Bringing in an athletic component can be helpful.
“There are other programs that address older kids, such as teenagers, where fitness and nutrition may be more important to them,” Velazquez said.
Also, for elementary-age children, companies need to keep in mind that schools play a large part in reaching children.
“Produce marketing has a great opportunity in the school foodservice setting, especially as school districts work to meet the new USDA meal pattern regulations,” Wilmes said.
The new requirements mean districts need to serve more fruits and vegetables at breakfast and lunch, so many foodservice directors are looking for cost-efficient, appealing ways to entice students to put produce on their lunch trays.
“We have helped school foodservice decision-makers increase produce purchases by educating them on purchasing and handling best practices, providing appealing foodservice recipes such as pear breakfast bars, and highlighting the methods successful districts use to serve pears creatively and often,” Wilmes said.