As America's nutritionally-challenged youth head back to school, an initiative led by Bolthouse Farms is taking on the junk food industry with a killer snack food alternative – carrots. Baby carrots actually. In this corner – the $18 billion dollar salty snack food industry; and in this corner – the $1 billion dollar baby carrot world.
As back to school marketing takes over America, 50 carrot growers are joining Bolthouse in the first ever baby carrot marketing campaign.
Spending some $25 million dollars, according to USA Today, the war chest is funded by "A Bunch of Carrot Farmers," the tongue in cheek name adopted by U.S. carrot growers in the battle for kids’ lunch boxes and vending machine snack choices vs. packaged snack food marketers.
The USA Today article reports that baby carrots will be packaged like Doritos, with three design choices (check them above and at the campaign's website, babycarrots.com); sold in school vending machines (already being tested in Syracuse and Cincinnati); kid-skewing slogans ("Eat 'em like junk food," "The original orange doodles"); a mobile app (above) featuring a crunch-powered game, now available for free download on iTunes; seasonal tie-ins such as Halloween ‘scarrots;’ a Facebook page; and TV spots that aim to portray baby carrots as hip and sexy.
The campaign was devised by Crispin Porter + Bogusky, which earned a reputation for innovative thinking with Burger King’s "Subservient Chicken" and TheTruth.com anti-smoking campaign. "Carrots don't have all the news that junk food comes with," explains Tiffany Rolfe, group creative director at Crispin.
As for Bolthouse, having eaten baby carrots for decades, they see clearly the inherent opportunity: "It's not an anti-junk-food campaign. It takes a page out of junk food's playbook and applies it to baby carrots," comments Jeff Dunn, Bolthouse Farms CEO and former president of Coca-Cola North America.
The Bolthouse family started vegetable farming commercially in 1915. Back-breaking manual labor in those days, the family enterprise soon became the leading supplier of carrots, celery, spinach, and onions to local canneries including Gerber Products, The Campbell Soup Company, and H.J. Heinz.
By 1950 Bolthouse Farms was a leading supplier of carrots to the entire Midwest region of the country. They take their stewardship commitment seriously: Minimize carbon footprint; Maximize efficient use of inputs; Minimize farming footprint required to meet demand; Exceed federal, state, and local Good Agricultural Practices requirements.
So it comes as no surprise that Bolthouse would try to raise the profile of baby carrots as a snack category, and not just promote its own brand.
As for the authors of the ‘junk food playbook,’ Frito-Lay spokesman Chris Kuechenmeister commented on the baby carrot push: "We're happy to serve as an inspiration. We know people don't eat enough fruits and vegetables. We applaud any effort to provide consumers with a wider range of snacking options."
Can branding baby carrots as junk food really woo kids away from salty, unhealthy, high caloric snacks?
As Fast Company blogger Ariel Schwartz writes, good luck tricking kids into thinking carrots are Cheetos or Doritos, while The Atlantic's Derek Thompson points out that kids' marketers have ingrained some tough-to-beat traits: "according to a recent study, most children say food packaged with cartoon characters tastes better than the same food in a boring wrapper. Seventy percent of what we taste is smell. For kids, half of what they taste is sight. Image matters, and it's smart and overdue for veggie and fruit producers to advertise creatively."
All the more reason why carrot growers are paying good money in the hopes that that kids can be won over, with marketing such as this: