Produce marketers don’t exactly think their job is easy, but they do realize promoting healthy fruits and vegetables is easier than trying to sell other unhealthy treats.
“We don’t face the same problems you might have with an unhealthier product,” said Steve Lutz, vice president of marketing for Columbia Marketing International, Wenatchee, Wash.
“What mom doesn’t like the idea of their child eating a fresh fruit that provides the recommended daily dose of vitamin A and C,” said Jim Grabowski, director of marketing for Watsonville, Calif.-based Well-Pict Berries.
“Parents like to please their kids, but they’re also interested in nutrition for their children. Balancing what pleases their kids with what is healthiest for them is the perfect balance,” said Mayra Velazquez de Leon, president of Organics Unlimited, San Diego.
The idea that parents already want to buy healthy foods for their children doesn’t mean that there is no marketing to be done. It just provides a good starting point.
In March, the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association, launched its Eat Brighter! campaign to get kids and families excited about eating those healthy items, not to discuss the health benefits of produce.
“We don’t need to sell the health message. It’s a given. Everyone knows produce is healthy,” Means said.
“We want to change the kinds of impressions children are seeing. We know marketing works. If you walk down the cereal aisle, it’s clear they have done a great job. We need to use the same kind of marketing,” Means said.
That typically means creating or using some type of animated character for children to relate to and interact with.
Brianna Shales, communications manager for Stemilt Growers LLC, Wenatchee, Wash., said the company isn’t involved in any licensing programs, although she understands they can have value.
“Those programs are good, but it has to be the right fit. And we found the big thing for us was building an attractive bag that appealed to kids,” she said.
“We looked into tying our product into a movie and found it wasn’t necessary. We can capture the attention and imagination of kids just by giving them a character,” said Steve Lutz, vice president of marketing, Columbia Marketing International, Wenatchee.
Others prefer to use well-known characters.
Brittany Wilmes, program coordinator for the Pear Bureau Northwest, said the organization’s partnership with Sprout TV’s LazyTown shows a clear lift in store sales when they include character materials in samplings or bring actors to the store for appearances.
“A typical LazyTown sampling event will produce a sales lift of more than 120%,” Wilmes said.
Wilmes also said that it’s important to not limit characters to American markets.
“We partner with film production companies like Fox Pictures to promote pears in conjunction with animated movies in Mexico. These playful promotions center on highly visible billboards and in-store point-of-sale materials and have seen great success, leading to extended partnerships,” she said.
Trish James, vice president of Produce for Kids, Orlando, Fla., has found using licensed characters can be helpful if done intentionally with the brand’s message in mind.
“I am skeptical that just throwing a character on a package is the right way to go,” James said.
“I believe you need to be strategic because the partnership should go beyond just putting characters on a sign. You need to work with them to do social media, events and other appearances,” James said.
She thinks the organization’s partnership with Sprout TV characters has given it a head start in connecting with children and their families.
“Kids are going to be attracted to characters they love and so using an existing popular character gives you a head start,” she said.