So in 2007, Matt opened a kind of Whole Foods for kids – a tiny supermarket-style store with miniature shopping carts kids could push up and down the aisles, picking out healthy stuff made just for them( with their parents’ help, of course). There was even a window into the “Kidchen” where kids could watch a chef prepare fresh, nutritious meals.
Cohen called the mini-mart Kidfresh, hoping to open additional retail locations. But by the spring of 2009, the single store on the Upper East Side of Manhattan had closed its doors. Undaunted, Cohen re-engineered the Kidfresh concept from a retail operation to the production of kid-friendly frozen meals.
In its reincarnation, the Kidfresh brand now consists of a line of (so far) six frozen meals: Totally Twisted Pasta and Meatballs, Rainbow Rice and Chicken, Easy Cheesy Ravioli, Spaghetti Loops Bolognese, Muy Cheesy Quesadillas, and Wagon Wheels Mac and Cheese. Kidfresh teamed up with a pediatric nutritionist to develop the “all-in-one” meals, which are frozen fresh, right after they’re prepared.
Kidfresh says every one of its meals contains moderate sodium, fat, and saturated fat, and has 0 grams of trans fat and less than 400 calories. Each Kidfresh meal is “100% Natural” (no artificial ingredients, flavors, color, or preservatives) and includes “hidden veggies” (vegetables that have been smoothly pureed and provide up to 33 percent of a 4 to 8 year old child’s daily needs). All the packaging is BPA free and “green” (the board used for the company’s boxes is made with 100% recycled fibers and are 100% recyclable; the bowls and films are also fully recyclable). And each meal is taste-tested by kids, “even picky eaters,” says the company.
The Kidfresh packaging is easily identifiable by the large brand name running vertically down the left side of the package. Each meal is pictured on the front of the box against a green background and accompanied by a cartoon illustration of a happy-looking kid sampling the meal.
The grocery aisles are loaded with food products that target children, from cartoon character cereals and toaster pastries to pasta, pizza, pretzel and ice cream products just for kids. Food marketers are always introducing quick-serve products that appeal to children, such as packaged Pop Tarts, frozen Pizza Rolls and Bagel Bites, and refrigerated Oscar Mayer Lunchables. In addition, some food marketers look for new ways to pitch existing products to kids, as in the recent campaign positioning baby carrots as a new kind of “junk food.”
Probably the most direct competition to Kidfresh is Kid Cuisine, a twenty-year old line of frozen meals designed to appeal to children. Produced by food giant ConAgra, Kid Cuisine offers sixteen varieties but doesn’t seem to have the same emphasis on natural, healthy food as does Kidfresh.
So how does a relatively unknown, modestly funded frozen food brand pitching good nutrition for kids compete against all the other brand name frozen and packaged kiddie food offerings, much less the fast food giants like McDonald’s who offer up toy-laden “Happy Meals” to entice little tykes?
For Kidfresh, it requires a combination of word-of-mouth promotion and an aggressive distribution strategy. Kidfresh encourages mommy bloggers to write positive reviews about its products, provides a letter that parents can give to store managers asking them to carry Kidfresh, and uses store sampling and couponing to encourage trial.
On the distribution side, Kidfresh started out by convincing Whole Foods to carry its products, and from that base expanded aggressively. Now the company’s product line is available in 500 stores on the East coast and in Southern states of the U.S., including ShopRite, King Kullen, Kings, and Shaw’s.
Of course, Kidfresh uses social media. The company maintains a blog, a Facebook page and a Twitter feed. Kidfresh has a conscience, too – in 2010, it partnered with Save the Children. During last year’s holiday season, every time Kidfresh received a “Like” on Facebook or a Twitter follower, the company donated 10 cents to Save the Children.
Kidfresh hopes to continue to expand its line – and also hopes that parents who see the wisdom of their approach will tell other parents about it. Ultimately, if parents like the idea, chances are their kids will be lovin’ it too.