The Fun Factor


A look at what's trending in produce for supermarkets' pint-size customers, as our focus on produce for kids continues.

Last month, First Lady Michelle Obama hosted the inaugural Kids' State Dinner, a formal luncheon in the East Room of the White House. The event welcomed 54 children age 8 to 12, representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia, along with their parents, to honor the kids whose recipes won the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge.

The challenge invited children to submit a lunchtime recipe that's healthy, affordable and delicious, and follows the MyPlate nutritional guidelines. Winners were selected by a panel of judges that included Epicurious, the Department of Education and the Department of Agriculture.

That's just one of the many initiatives of the First Lady's "Let's Move!" campaign, which has brought critical attention to our nation's childhood obesity problem.

"The Healthy Challenge Cookbook," downloadable from the Let's Move! website, is filled with produce-heavy recipes such as Fish-Fueled Pepper Rocket with Kale Chips and Quinoa, and Falafel Wrap with Apple, Carrot and Cranberry Slaw.

From the White House to your neighbor's house, parents and their kids are focusing on better nutrition and exercise like never before. With kids heading back to school, busy parents are on the hunt for produce-based snacks, sides and meals that make packed lunches and after-school snacking nutritious and convenient propositions.

"Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years, and only 18 percent of parents say their kids are eating three or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day," notes Tristan Simpson, director of marketing for Ready Pac Foods Inc. With this in mind, Irwindale, Calif.-based Ready Pac recently teamed up with Disney to launch of a line of healthy, kid-targeted Salads and Mini-Meals under the Ready Pac Cool Cuts brand.

Ready Pac Cool Cuts Salads, which target kids age 6 to 12, come in four varieties: Pizzeria Salad, Taco Salad, Caesar Salad and Harvest Salad. "Inside each product, kids will find a 'fun factor' that matches the Disney character on the label, like a sticker or temporary tattoo," says Simpson.

Dose of Encouragement

Ready Pac was inspired to include the so-called "fun factor" after learning that nearly 50 percent of moms encourage their kids to eat more fruits and vegetables by offering a tangible reward like stickers, observes Simpson, citing research from the recent report Produce for Better Health Foundation: Primary Shoppers/Moms with Kids 10 & Under.

Cashmere, Wash.-based Crunch Pak also plans to up the fun factor on its recently introduced Flavorz line of sliced apples infused with natural flavoring. The company is developing a rub-and-smell sticker that will be applied to the outside of clamshells containing five 2-ounce packages. The line is currently available in three flavors: Peach/Mango, Grape and Strawberry Vanilla Cream.

In the case of the new Lil Snappers Bartlett Pears from Stemilt Growers of Wenatchee, Wash., the fun is available via a QR code on display bins. The code allows children and their parents to access kid-friendly recipes and printable activity sheets from their smartphones via a mobile site. The Bartlett pears come in the 3-pound Lil Snappers package.

Last month's issue of PG noted that by the time kids are 9 to 11 years old, they already wield $65 billion in buying power. It's a fact not lost on Simpson, who says Ready Pac will continue to focus on the development of kid-targeted produce.

"Kids influence parents' purchases. In fact, 70 percent of parents buy produce because kids ask for it or like it," notes Simpson, pointing to additional findings from the Primary Shoppers study.

What types of new products can we expect to see from produce suppliers? Simpson replies, "In terms of produce, what resonates well with kids and parents are kid-appealing ingredients such as appetizing shapes — alphabets, pretzels or fun cheese shapes, colorful fruits and veggies that are bright and vibrant."

Fresh Take on Box Tops

This back-to-school season, the "Box Tops for Education" program, which has helped America's schools raise more than $475 million since 1996, is taking a fresh approach to earning cash for education.

Green Giant Fresh of Salinas, Calif., has become the only fresh produce brand to offer Box Tops, starting last year with iceberg lettuce, romaine hearts, cauliflower and broccoli. "Now we've expanded far beyond that to include raisins, corn, blueberries, asparagus and some hothouse items that we're launching later this year," explains Jennifer Fancher, Green Giant Fresh director of marketing. "Our key consumer is that mom working or at home who is trying decide what to put on the table."

Green Giant Fresh is keeping Mom and the lunchboxes she's packing in mind with its latest product releases, including hothouse grape tomatoes and mini cucumbers, both of which feature the Box Tops for Education coupon.

Green Giant Fresh is also ramping up its recipe collection to help harried moms put healthier meals on the table. "From the research we've done, recipes are the No. 1 reason people come to our site," notes Fancher. "People just don't know what to do with certain vegetables. They want ideas, and they're tired of meatloaf and mashed potatoes."

In the next month, the company plans to launch a mobile site that will connect QR codes on Green Giant Fresh packaging with a host of fresh recipe ideas.

From the White House to your neighbor's house, parents and their kids are focusing on better nutrition and exercise like never before.

"People just don't know what to do with certain vegetables. They want ideas, and they're tired of meatloaf and mashed potatoes."

—Jennifer Fancher, Green Giant Fresh

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