Leverage Marketing Insights to Promote Healthier Foods to Kids

Leverage Marketing Insights to Promote Healthier Foods to Kids

October 1, 2014

Annette Maggi, MS, RD, LD, FAND

RDBA Executive Director

Marketing works. It’s designed to play on the emotional hot buttons of consumers and compel them to purchase a food, buy a car, or desire the latest, greatest phone.  In the food world, it’s been well documented that advertising of foods with high nutrient density (think vegetables and fruits) lags well behind the promotion of other food items (think chips and soda) in total dollar spend.  This is especially a concern with children, as they can’t yet critically evaluate the messages in ads.  In light of the influence you have with marketing, advertising, and merchandising at your company, retail dietitians are well positioned to apply known advertising tactics to promote foods with higher nutrient density to kids.

Consider These Options:

- Product placement in music videos, movies and video games is commonly used by advertisers to appeal to teens. 

    • Action items Is it possible to do product placements of bagged fruit in the snack aisle?  If you’re store carries movies and music, partner with merchandising to create a display of healthy snacks in this department.

- Good marketers know to keep it simple.  With the outrageous number of messages consumers are bombarded with daily, you can’t ask shoppers’ brains too work too hard to get your point.  Simple type fonts, short text, easy to remember names – they all make the message more compelling to shoppers, especially kids.

    • Action items: Develop a short tagline for nutrition messages you flag in signage, circulars, blogs and websites to quickly grab the shopper’s attention.  For kids, use bold, colorful type at the appropriate age level.

- Convenience and taste are what savvy marketers promote most often.

    • Action items Take a lesson from this playbook, and focus demos on the taste of vegetables and fruits instead of the nutritional value.  Teach a kids cooking class on various ways to cook delicious vegetables (think roasted, mashed, au gratin cauliflower).  Promote the convenience of your retailer’s cut fruit program in blogs on healthy school lunches.  Build meal solutions with bagged salads and precooked chicken.

- Free toys sell product to kids.  They just do.

    • Action items Partner with merchandising and marketing on incentive programs for kids based on pounds of fruits and vegetables purchased.  Offer prizes that matter to kids like song downloads.

- Cartoon characters are highly appealing to young kids.  As a part of their commitment to healthy options, Disney is licensing their characters on fresh produce items, as shown in this example from Publix.

    • Action items:  Research character options currently available to promote fruits and vegetables, and present them to your produce buyers.  Bring in vendors to discuss the programs, and remember to track the program success as a part of your ROI.  Conduct in-store demos showing parents how to make fruits and vegetables more appealing, such as using fun cookie cutters.  Display the cookie cutters near your demo, and measure their sales for your ROI.  Offer superhero stickers as an incentive based on purchase of specific fruits and vegetables or pounds of produce.

- Cause marketing. According to the 2010 Cone Cause Evolution Study report, "85 percent of consumers have a more positive image of a product or company when it supports a cause they care about."

    • Action items:  Work with your retail senior leadership and private label department to tie cause marketing to your better-for-you owned brand products.  Market the relationship on product packages, tout in through in-store signage and on coupons.

The retail setting offers many options to promote healthier foods, especially fruits and vegetables, using known marketing principles.  Everyone wins as sales of healthier products increase.