The Cheetos School of Marketing

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The Cheetos School of Marketing


Those pushing for an overhaul of what folks eat are always looking at the perimeter for where the “good stuff” is, but the produce department is heeding cues from center store marketers on how to move merchandise.

While I believe that it’s fine to eat everything in moderation, there’s no doubt most of us can stand to consume more fresh fruits and vegetables. Trouble is, for any number of reasons, Americans aren’t eating nearly enough fruits and vegetables, and the latest findings from the Centers for Disease Control provide further validation.

Indeed, the percentage of Americans eating fruit two or more times every day and vegetables at least three times daily declined slightly compared to a decade ago, according to a CDC Weekly Report for Sept. 10, which found 32.5 percent of adults in the U.S. ate fruit two or more times daily in 2009, and just over a quarter of Americans (26.3 percent) ate vegetables three or more times per day.

Maybe the problem is taste. Maybe the problem is personal preference. Or maybe the problem is image.

I’d wager most folks jonesing for a crunchy, bright orange snack are reaching for those flashy bags of Cheetos in the salty snack aisle. But I join our chief editor, Meg Major, in cheering the efforts of a bunch of carrot farmers, led by Bakersfield, Calif., based Bolthouse Farms, who are trying to change that by playing Cheetos’ own game. They’ve launched the first-ever advertising and marketing campaign for baby carrots that satires infamous junk-food marketing to challenge salty snacks’ dominance over snacking mindshare.

The “Eat ‘em like junk food” campaign includes new packaging and television spots that overtly mimic junk-food advertising tactics and playfully confrontational outdoor billboards, social media and customized vending machines that live alongside junk-food vending machines in schools. The campaign also features the “world’s first carrot-crunch-powered video game,” available as a free download at the iTunes store.

“We feel that with the cultural climate around healthy snacking right now, there’s a unique and timely opportunity to do the first ever consumer-based advertising for carrots,” says Jeff Dunn, CEO of Bolthouse Farms.

Of course, center store is full of healthy eating options. But salty snacks and other processed foods are in the food police’s radar for the foreseeable future. So it’d be nice if center store lending its loud sport coat and golf pants to its neighbors in the produce section can help improve folks’ nutritional profiles.

Speaking of better nutrition, there’s a new study out that bodes well for aggressive grocers looking to boost sales of the fixins for brown-bag school lunches. Apparently, kids who eat a lot of vending machine food at school are setting themselves up for a world of hurt down the road. This just screams “marketing opportunity.”