Kashi Reinvigorates 30-Year-Old Purpose

Historically, I have not been an early adopter. Heck, I still had a flip phone well after the iPhone 4 launch. Years after organic food caught on, I was still eating fast food everyday. However, I have just broken my mold and become one of the first few (defined loosely) to eat Certified Transitional food. That's right, you heard me. Certified Transitional.

Certified Transitional food is grown by farmers who are in the process of becoming certified organic but have not yet finished jumping through three years worth of costly bureaucratic hoops. While Certified Transitional may not yet have the organic label, it still offers the benefits of organic foods: no synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

Why on earth would I rush out to buy Kashi's Dark Cocoa Karma cereal, the first Certified Transitional product? Better yet, why would Kashi develop it in the first place? Let's start with Kashi.

Activating enduring purpose in new, exciting ways

In 2015, per Ad Age, Kellogg Co., Kashi's parent company, issued an ad-agency-review RFP, which cited a few reasons for Kashi's recent decline in sales, including that the brand had lost traction with core consumers due to “stale innovation” and “lack of purposeful brand positioning.” 

Fast-forward to the recent Sustainable Brands Conference in San Diego, where Kashi CEO David Denholm introduced and explained how the Certified Transitional label came to fruition. He did not mention any of the above issues, but it was clear innovation and purpose were top of mind for Kashi. He spoke about how Kashi has been following the same purpose for 30 years: “To enable powerful, uplifting health through plant-based foods.” And how in today's world, activating this purpose requires not only focusing on nutrition, but on “how are products are made...(and) the impact on the world in which we live.” This acknowledgement of a need to broaden how they activate Kashi's purpose led his team to set out on a journey to answer the question: how do we increase the amount of organic farmland in the United States?

Helping suppliers while addressing a core consumer need

Conversations with farmers awoke Kashi to the idea that supporting farmers in transition could lead to more organic farmland in the United States. While helping their suppliers is great, Kashi was sure to test the Certified Transitional idea with consumers to ensure it resonated. I bet Kashi knew their new concept did better than just sound nice to consumers, but that it tapped into a previously unsatisfied need of their core consumer, a critical element for successful innovation.

Denholm did not define Kashi's core consumer, but I believe that the most ardent natural foods consumers are evangelists for the organic cause who, like Kashi, want to spread the accessibility of organic foods. For example, I've been buying organic food for years now. Even in times where I've thought, “man, I can't afford this,” I plowed ahead thinking the more organic I buy, the more supply there will be, and eventually costs will lower both for me and others. However, as Kashi points out on the Dark Cocoa Karma packaging, less than 1% of U.S. farmland is certified organic, leaving me feeling pretty powerless. Clearly, my fellow tree huggers and I have not made much of a dent. So, by helping transitioning farmers, Kashi is also addressing consumer needs in a pioneering way.

Starting a movement

Kashi doesn't just want to sell more cereal, they want to start a movement. They want other manufacturers to join them in creating Certified Transitional products. However, they'll first have to create the consumer demand. We'll have to wait and see how much media spend Kashi puts behind the movement, but for starters they've created a couple of YouTube videos that promote and explain Certified Transitional and they're encouraging usage of the hashtag #gotogether.

The videos are informative, but even for a topic I am passionate about, they didn't leave me issuing triumphant fist pumps. I think there is opportunity in future content to stimulate a more emotional response—a critical ingredient to getting engagement. Stories could be crafted illustrating the emotional impact that buying this product can have on consumers—the surge of adrenaline that can come from being apart of a movement, a team, that is “going together” to better the world. At least, that's how I felt when I bought the cereal.

3 comments about "Kashi Reinvigorates 30-Year-Old Purpose ".
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  1. Linda Moskal from WNPV Radio, June 23, 2016 at 1:33 p.m.

    A few years ago, I ate Kashi cereal as part of a weight-loss diet.  I stopped because it just didn't taste good.  Creating new "almost" organic labelling isn't going to bring me back until they tell me that not only will it be good for me (and the world) but it will taste good, too!  And adding chocolate won't do it!

  2. Robert Heavrin from Added Value replied, June 23, 2016 at 1:45 p.m.

    Hi Linda- Yep, that's a fair challenge!  

    Agree, delivering key category needs (i.e. taste) is critical.  For example, Chipotle ties their "food with integrity" promise to taste.  Saying that "real ingredients just taste better".  It's interesting that Kashi doesn't seem to be making a similar connection.  Let's keep our eye on how that pans out.

    P.S. The cereal tasted pretty good to me!

  3. Virginia Suhr from Lobo & Petrocine Marketing, June 23, 2016 at 5:10 p.m.

    I agree with Linda. Kashi does not taste good. 

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