Who run the world? Kids. Or at least it’s certainly starting to seem that way. Kids have influence over such a large number of purchases that even those of us without little ones can’t escape the effects of their sticky fingers. “For the benefit of the children” is in the back of the minds of brands from household cleaners (will these harm a child?), to food (will this harm a child?), to cars (will this harm a child?), to furniture (will this harm a child?) to nearly every other product you bring into your home.
So what does this have to do with marketing? In the food world, it’s everything, particularly in regards to the natural and organic channel. When mass produced food products first started flooding the market, they were targeting convenience. Households were becoming busier and the end goal for most was to present a meal on the table at the end of the day in a timely manner. But slowly attitudes have started to shift towards more health-focused mindsets and brands that once focused on small market segments now have the power and ability to reach a greater population and target consumers that once seemed like a stretch.
When Annie’s Homegrown was founded in 1989, Annie Withy was selling macaroni and cheese from the back of her car and spreading the radical idea that a business could be socially conscious. Taking the product directly to potential customers and putting her personal phone number on the back of the box worked and eventually Annie’s grew a loyal fan base that quickly ate up the new products the company was developing.By this point, Annie’s was already starting to produce more explicitly kid-centric offerings. Sure, macaroni and cheese is on nearly every child’s “will eat” list, but offering bunny shaped pasta and a healthier alternative to Spaghetti-Os will win a place and their (and mom’s) heart. But in the 90s, the desire for natural and organic foods was called for by a minuscule sect of consumers that had the interest–and the income–to purchase better for you goods.
Fast forward a few years, and Annie’s started popping up beyond natural food outlets and started to make appearances in “Natural/Organic” sections at national grocery stores. Fast forward a few more and Annie’s is bought by General Mills. In the meantime, issues relating to health began permeating the national consciousness and the demand for natural products went up considerably. And who’s health is a large portion of the population worried about? Kids. Not wanting to be regulated as the brand of “granola moms,” Annie’s capitalized on the kid capital and now Annie’s is on the shelves of households across America (even us childless folks probably have a bottle of their salad dressing in our refrigerators).
Here’s where Annie’s segmentation exploded. At first, it was naturally minded people. And now?
- Loyal Users
- New Entrants to the health set
- People with allergies
- Usage occasions including: Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and on-the-go
- Literally everyone
Kids were a huge catalyst for their explosion and Annie’s is now reaching markets they couldn’t have imagined in 1989. They have a presence on the main social media channels, respond accordingly to their customers, generate posts that invite interaction, and formed a relationship with Target that brought their products to the forefront of consumer consciousness, complete with frequent sales. Parents are sharing the products with their friends and sending them to Grandma’s house. Young adults wanting a mac and cheese fix are reaching for the non-GMO box with a bunny on the front. Hesitant new entrants are picking the better for you alternative of their favorites with the 2/$5 price tag. For many, organic food still carries a stigma of being unaffordable, but Annie’s is working its way into more and more homes one bunny graham at a time.