Who would have thought that green eggs and ham could be a trendsetter? The weird-colored food phenomenon is popping up in myriad categories from ketchup to yogurt, and all the products are backed by a strong marketing push aimed at kids, who play a major role in food purchase decisions. According to New York-based kid marketing agency The Geppetto Group, kid influence has increased 54% since 1997, affecting US$290 billion of purchases made for the home.
To curry brand loyalty with this influential demographic, many companies have expanded their lines to include food items that key into kid needs like play value, creativity, edginess and ownership.
Mott’s tested the waters in 1998 when it teamed up with Nickelodeon to release a promotional line of single-serve applesauce packs in Blue’s Clues berry-blue and Rugrats lime-green. Sales were spectacular according to Michael Brown, product manager for Mott’s single-serve applesauce. ‘It started with a 3% marketshare in `98, became a permanent product line in ’99, and by 2000, its first full year in distribution, jumped to a 10% marketshare of the single-serve applesauce fragment.’ Mott’s is adding to the line, with a tongue-staining, red Hawaiian Punch applesauce hitting shelves this month.
Kraft Foods got into the hued food game in May 2000 with the launch of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Blue’s Clues blue pasta. ‘Kids naturally gravitate towards things that are brightly-colored, unique or customized,’ says Amy Bailey, senior brand manager of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. The blue paw print-shaped pasta has racked up a 1.3% marketshare and is the second best-selling shape in Kraft’s mac-and-cheese line, behind a Pokémon-shaped pasta that hit shelves in January 2000. Bailey says Kraft is currently testing other kids products and ‘the color strategy continues to play into what we’re doing in the future.’
Pushing to win points with a new generation of ketchup-lovers since about 50% of ketchup is consumed by kids ages six to 13, Heinz gave kids their own ketchup last October with E-Zee Squirt Blastin’ Green. Designed by kids, who suggested a funky new color, the green goo proved to be a hot item. The first year of E-Zee Squirt Blastin’ Green inventory was gone in 90 days, with kids putting it on their Christmas wish lists and Heinz having to run its Iowa plant 24 hours a day, seven days a week producing nothing but Green.
‘We reached about a 10% marketshare of the ketchup category with the new product-and that’s with almost no advertising,’ says Michael Mullen, spokesperson for Heinz North America. Green ketchup helped propel Heinz to its largest overall share ever with 62.5% of the total market as of April 2001 (up 3% to 4% from last year). To keep the idea fresh, Heinz will introduce a new color in August, but the company is playing coy about announcing the shade, which will be either orange, yellow, purple or hot pink.
Hoping to see their marketshare make a similar climb, a whole whack of food companies are now clamoring to jump on the bandwagon. Hunt’s is offering a blue butterscotch pudding Snack Pack to promote Disney’s animated flick Atlantis, which launched June 15; the initiative follows up on last summer’s neon-green branded pudding for CGI film Dinosaur. This month, Dannon’s line of Sprinkl’ins Color Creations yogurt came out with new color-changing blue magic crystals to turn kid yogurt into risky red, jelly purple, alligator green and sunrise orange.
In April, Frito-Lay added colors to kids palettes with its Cheetos Mystery Colorz Snacks, laced with moisture-activated ingredients that make the snack change color in kids mouths, turning their tongues blue or green. The snack company supported the product with an animated TV spot featuring Chester Cheetah carrying a friend to ER after he eats the new Cheetos and his tongue turns blue.
In its Choose the Ooze kids meal promo this April, Burger King offered a Frozen Green Minute-Maid Cherry drink, Gooey Green Apple Ooze dipping sauce and Heinz’s Blastin’ Green ketchup. A 30-second ad for the promo on Nick and Cartoon played on the idea that adults don’t understand the appeal of eating bright-green, gooey-textured food, making it exclusively for kids. In the spot, kids stick out their green-tinted tongues, and mom is completely grossed out by it.
Will the color craze last in the long term? ‘Who knows if it’s a flash in the pan that will be replaced by the next big thing,’ says Kraft’s Bailey. ‘But for right now, it’s a trend that manufacturers are going to tap into and leverage to see what it can do for them.’