With the U.S. Department of Agriculture's new MyPlate icon driving home the message that healthy eating means making vegetables and fruits half of each meal and First Lady Michelle Obama aggressively promoting her "Let's Move" initiatives to stem childhood obesity, Birds Eye sees an unprecedented opportunity to get more of its frozen vegetables onto Americans' plates.
The Pinnacle Foods Group brand is launching an overarching marketing initiative, "Discover the Wonder of Vegetables," including a new advertising campaign themed "At Birds Eye, It's Always Vegetable Season."
The core concept behind "Wonder of Vegetables" -- a multimillion-dollar integrated marketing effort led by TBWA/Chiat/Day on advertising, Optimedia on media, Weber Shandwick on PR/social media and Tenthwave on digital assets -- is a dual approach that combines inspiring people to want to eat more of the brand's frozen veggies, and providing recipes, solutions and tasty products that make it easy to act on that inclination.
Americans know that they need to eat more vegetables, and want children in particular to form this dietary habit early in their lives, observes Rod Troni, VP of marketing for Birds Eye. However, while frozen vegetable sales are increasing, the category is not fully leveraging the "tailwinds" in its favor, Troni tells Marketing Daily.
"Some other companies are taking the approach of 'hiding' vegetables in other foods" to help parents get their kids to eat veggies, Troni says. "While that works in the short term, it doesn't work over the long term. The solution lies in changing behavior by making vegetable consumption desirable, rather than pushing it as a 'must do.' Our mission is to inspire and enable people -- especially kids -- to eat and enjoy vegetables because they want to, not because they 'have to.'"
Birds Eye's strategy and "simple tips and solutions" are informed by child-focused research it has commissioned from food psychologist Brian Wansink, director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University and author of Mindless Eating, reports Troni.
The "Wonder of Vegetables" marketing campaign kicked off on Sept. 15 with an event at the farmer's market in New York City's Union Square. Birds Eye showcased spokesperson chef Marcus Samuelsson (co-owner of New York's Aquavit and Chicago's C-House restaurants) against a "vegetable farm in the snow" backdrop that tied in with the brand's "Always Vegetable Season" ad campaign theme. The chef gave cooking demonstrations and offered tips on inspiring "vegetable wonder" among children.
One of the many efforts in Birds Eye's marketing push is a branded "My Perfect Veggie-Powered Plate" Facebook app through which Samuelsson, a vocal advocate of the new USDA/MyPlate guidelines, shares recipes and tips for creating tasty meals that start with vegetables.
As part of Birds Eye's ongoing "Feed Kids Better" initiative, every "veggie-powered" plate created by the brand's Facebook fans will trigger a donation of vegetables for 10 meals to Share Our Strength, the nonprofit dedicated to ending childhood hunger in America through its "No Kid Hungry" campaign. (From Sept. 1, 2011 through Sept. 30, 2012, Birds Eye will donate up to 250,000 pounds of vegetables.)
"The app connects the inspirational and enabling elements of our mission by providing consumers with vegetable-focused meal solutions and at the same time with a way that they can help American kids get the vegetables that they need for healthy nutrition," says Troni.
Birds Eye is also among the brands partnering with the USDA to build awareness of the new dietary guidelines/MyPlate icon (USDA's "Make Half Your Plate Fruits and Vegetables" education initiative also launched this month). The MyPlate message is prominent on Birds Eye's Web site and Facebook page.
Birds Eye's new advertising campaign will not launch until later this month, and Troni declined to share its creative specifics at present. However, he confirmed that ads on television, print and online will serve to drive consumers to the brand's site and Facebook page to engage with the inspirational and enabling elements.
Troni also reports that the magazine print ads, which will start with October issues, will be product-specific -- noting Birds Eye's recent launch of a Chef's Favorites line that offers chef-inspired, restaurant-style vegetables combined with sauces and seasonings. That line includes risotto varieties, such as Primavera Vegetable Risotto and Lightly Sauced Mushroom & Green Bean Risotto.
A major part of changing behavior is providing families with vegetables that "taste great" -- options that change perceptions among kids and adults who perhaps got turned off by being served "mushy broccoli when they were five years old," Troni says.
The TV ads, to begin airing late this month, will take a "disruptive" creative approach rather than hew to the "family with a plate of vegetables in front of them" tack that's been used for over a decade, says Troni. Messaging will stress that Birds Eye's vegetables are picked at the peak of their freshness, fresh-frozen and packaged to offer maximum preparation convenience, he notes.