For many Americans, snacks are now the most important meal of the day, and busy lifestyles necessitate snacking options that can be consumed on-the-go with little to no preparation. Health is also a top priority, and more shoppers are looking for portion-controlled foods made without preservatives or artificial ingredients. To answer the call, food companies are turning their attention to a new kind of super-snack. All-natural, nutrient-dense, ready-to-eat and, in some cases, pre-wrapped in its own natural packaging, fruits and vegetables are the answer to Americans’ snack demands.
The idea of fruits and vegetables as a convenient, healthy snack is obviously nothing new, but by looking at fruits and vegetables in fresh ways and approaching them with a marketer’s eye, major food companies are changing the way consumers approach healthy snacking.
Fruits and vegetables were “relatively unbranded up to this point, but we’ve gotten to a place where having brands move into that category makes sense,” said Laurie Demeritt, CEO of The Hartman Group.
In some cases, branded fruit and vegetable products are nearly identical to unbranded versions, but being sold under a brand name is a symbol of quality, Demeritt said. Brand loyalty is still a driving force behind many purchases, and companies are finding way to transfer the idea to fresh produce.
One of the first examples of branded produce was introduced by California citrus farmer Tom Mullholland, whose Mulholland Citrus company began marketing an extremely sweet variety of tangerines in the 1990’s under the brand name Delite. Imitators followed, including Sun Pacific, which sells the same variety of tangerines under the brand name Cuties.
Children are an obvious target market for fruit and vegetable marketing, and Cuties have become a household name, known for the slogan “Kids love Cuties. Because Cuties are made for kids.” Many of the other branded fruit and vegetable products on the market have a kid-friendly angle, such as Bolthouse Farms Kids Veggie Snackers — carrot sticks packaged with a shake-on seasoning — or Crunch Pak’s Dipperz line of apple slices and carrots with dips. Crunch Pak also offers a Snackers line geared toward more adult palates, with apple slices paired with salty items such as cheese and pretzels.
Adult consumers “say they are consuming fresh fruits and veggies more often,” Demeritt said, citing a Hartman Group survey in which consumers said 50% of their total eating occasions were snacks, and the number one snack consumed was fruit.
Brands are finding innovative ways to make fruit and vegetable snacks even more convenient for consumers. In its November 2014 report “What America Eats: Paradigms Shaping Food Choices,” Packaged Facts mentions advances in vending technology that allow for fresh foods.
“Companies such as Cool Vending and Fresh Healthy Vending are opening up the vending machine concept beyond soda and junk food. Temperature-controlled units allow both prepared and perishable foods to be dispensed — which increases snack variety, including healthy options such as fruit, yogurt, low-fat cheese sticks, cut vegetables and hummus,” the report states.
These types of vending solutions and pre-cut formulations are making fruit and vegetable options every bit as convenient as traditional packaged snack foods. And companies are giving these options an advantage in another way — marketing. Traditional branded snack foods have a long history of marketing campaigns with bright colors, catchy slogans and alluring mascots and spokespeople that are extremely effective at drawing in consumers. Now fruits and vegetables are starting to get the same treatment.
Avocados from Mexico made history during the most recent Super Bowl broadcast by being the first produce brand to run an ad during the big game. The company is a partner of the FNV marketing campaign, which launched during the Partnership for a Healthier America Summit in March. The project applies traditional marketing practices to products such as beets and carrots, matching them up with colorful illustrations and cheeky slogans.
“FNV knows that marketing works and if it works for cars and laptops and Edison light bulbs, why can’t it work for fruits and veggies? But it’s our partners’ support that will allow us to put this strategy to work. Their resources are secondary to their insight of the market, their own marketing savvy and their leadership. FNV is nowhere without them,” said PHA Chief Marketing Officer Drew Nannis.
In addition to Avocados from Mexico, FNV partners with Bolthouse Farms, Sweetgreen and the Produce Marketing Association, among others. Its list of celebrity spokespeople includes a bevy of actors and athletes, from Jessica Alba to John Cena.
“Our tactics aren’t new — it’s the goal of those tactics that’s new. Out-of-home, digital, sponsorships, community engagement … all of it. All driving toward one goal: increased consumption and sales of fruits and veggies. Fruits and Veggies is a brand now. Buckle up,” Nannis said.
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