LDL-Lowering Snack Brand Raises Its Profile

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While lots of food products, including snacks, claim to be "heart healthy," some bigger players might have reason to envy the Food and Drug Administration health claim visible on the packaging and advertising for still-small snack brand Corazonas Foods: lowers cholesterol (as in "bad" or LDL cholesterol).

The six-year-old, Los-Angeles-based company can make this claim because a serving of its tortilla chips, potato chips or oatmeal squares contains between 0.4 and 0.8 grams of plant sterols that meet FDA criteria. Plant sterols -- when eaten twice per day with meals for a total daily intake of at least 0.8 grams, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol -- have been clinically shown to help reduce LDL.

And as the licensee of a Brandeis University-patented process for infusing snack foods with bio-available sterols, Corazonas products are currently the only commercially available snacks containing the sterols, according to the company.

Granted, the clinical specifics are far from sexy. But given that many consumers -- particularly those at known risk for heart disease -- are torn between trying to eat healthfully and craving the occasional tasty snack, snacks that promise taste and an actual cholesterol-lowering benefit would seem to have a solid marketing platform ... assuming they can convey all that in consumer-friendly fashion.

On that score, Corazonas is now building on its "mantra" -- "Freedom to Snack Sensibly" -- with a new integrated campaign that seeks to ... well, get to the heart of the matter. Indeed, the campaign is centered on a new heart icon bearing the tagline, "Love Your Heart. Love the Taste."

Launched this month to coincide with National Heart Month, the campaign is the largest to date for the privately owned company, which plans to expand its retail footprint beyond its current base in supermarkets and specialty stores in L.A., Seattle, Portland, Phoenix, San Diego and other Western markets.

"Corazonas' working goal is very much to go national, by gradually expanding East," confirms Eric Kiker, partner/chief strategy officer for Denver-headquartered LeeReedy, which became the snack company's agency last year.

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That national goal is part of the larger mission of Corazonas CEO Ramona Cappello. Cappello founded the company in 2005 after a 30-year career in marketing (at companies including Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut, Nestle, Celestial Seasonings and Kendall-Jackson Wineries) as her "revenge" against heart disease, after witnessing her own father struggle with it despite all efforts, including "giving up all of his favorite foods," she explains on the Corazonas site.

Of course, with the big brands dominating and battling it out with their own continually expanding offerings in the snack aisle, building consumer awareness and demand to secure those all-important retail trials is critical for a fast-growing but nevertheless upstart brand.

Corazonas and LeeReedy (whose clients also include Atkins Nutritionals, Chiquita Brands International, Fresh Express and Red Robin restaurants) are seeking to maximize the impact of a relatively modest marketing budget with an approach that spans newly redesigned packaging that showcases the heart icon and the "proven to lower cholesterol" benefit; traditional and social media; and in-store events that include public-service cholesterol screenings.

The main social media element is a new Facebook-based quiz/contest in which those who "like" the brand can answer questions about heart-healthy topics for a chance to win a case of Corazonas snacks, being awarded weekly. "It's easy enough to get people to 'like' a brand on Facebook, but harder to get them to really engage with it as a first step in eventually mobilizing them," notes Kiker. "Since the ultimate goal is helping people avoid or reduce the risk of heart disease, the quiz serves that purpose, as well as introducing new consumers to the brand and increasing engagement and loyalty among existing fans."

The brand's Facebook page also offers a "Wear Red (Virtually)" app that enables users to adopt a support-heart-health-awareness image as their "avatars," a $1-off coupon, and a 28-day "Prove It" challenge. The challenge: Register your name/email, have your cholesterol tested before and after eating Corazonas snacks (as recommended) during a 28-day period, and if your cholesterol doesn't go down, the company will refund the price of the snacks. (Those who opt in also receive daily emails to "help them keep on track" during the trial.)

On the outdoor front, traditional and digital billboards, wallscapes and posters in key markets are being complemented with signage on Corazonas and distributors' trucks.

In-store efforts include freestanding POP displays and sampling events manned by brand ambassadors wearing aprons and hats bearing the "heart/taste" icon -- accompanied by weekly public cholesterol screenings. The events are being supported by 30- and 60-second regional radio promotions, done in live-read format (scripted but allowing the announcer/DJ some latitude, to avoid overly "canned" presentations, notes Kiker).

Corazonas also sells its snacks online, through a storefront that connects into Amazon (six-packs are priced at $13.97 to $14.57, depending on the snack type/flavor variety) -- and offers direct online purchases of "ICare Packages." These package deals are designed to drive sampling/awareness: Send someone you care about three bags of chips and four oatmeal squares -- a $20 value -- for the price of shipping alone ($8).

According to the company, its potato chips have 6 grams of fat (versus 10 grams in regular chips), its tortilla chips include 18 grams of whole grain and three grams of fiber, and its oatmeal squares have 13-16 grams of whole grain, five grams of fiber and six grams of protein. All of the potato and tortilla chips are kosher and lacto-vegetarian, and the whole-grain varieties are gluten-free.

 

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