Behavior Change
Could Marketing Fresh Produce Like Junk Food Get Kids Eating More Fruits and Vegetables?

Getting kids to eat more fruit and vegetables has long been a challenge that, despite their best efforts, many parents struggle to win. It’s not just parents — it appears that no one, including schools, retailers and health experts, has managed to crack it. Despite all the drive towards healthy eating, fruit and vegetable consumption still falls well short of the recommended amount, with Americans only eating, on average, one portion of fruit and 1-2 portions of vegetables a day. Some health advisors have even considered the option of marketing it in the same way as pharmaceuticals.

Maybe we’ve been getting it wrong the whole time — maybe the best way of trying to get kids to ditch the junk food for fruit and veg, is to make fruit and veg look like junk food.

A new effort led by Bolthouse Farms*,* “a bunch of carrot farmers” behind the successful 2010 “extreme baby carrots” campaign that encouraged people to “eat ‘em like junk food” — which went so far as to sell the carrots in vending machines and repackage them in crinkly, chip-like snack bags — is aiming to do just that.

Baby carrots

Like the “extreme baby carrots” campaign, the idea is to make fruit and vegetables more accessible and desirable to kids as a snack alternative to the junk food they might prefer to reach for. Bolthouse Farms has created a range of products with this in mind, including pureed fruit tubes that kids can suck and slurp, pure-fruit smoothies, and packs of baby carrots called “Veggie Snackers,” which come with pouches of brightly colored seasoning (including Carrot Meets Ranch" and "Carrot Meets Chili Lime") that, when shaken all over the carrots, give them a similar quality to snacks such as Doritos.

"They give you that crunch and flavor. You're going to lick your fingers, and get that same sensory [experience] you get with salty snacks," Bolthouse CEO Jeff Dunn recently told NPR’s The Salt.

Dunn, a former Coca-Cola executive, is hoping to replicate some of the techniques used by the successful snack and soda industries, by applying it to healthy snack products.

Giant Eagle kids' snack section

"When I go into the produce section," Karet says, "there's not quite as much going on for [kids] compared to, say, the cereal aisle or the candy shelves."

It’s not just a campaign that could benefit kids, though — it could be a winning concept for retailers, too, if it increases healthy snack sales. With multi-packs of some of the products, Fruit Tubes and Veggie Snackers, priced at US$3.99, there’s money to be made. The new kids’ line could evolve into a $100 million platform at Bolthouse, making it "our most important new product launch in a decade," Dunn told USA Today.

"I think the kid-friendly snacking stations are an absolutely fascinating concept," David Just, a behavioral economist at Cornell University told The Salt. Telling kids what they should eat is not very effective, he says. "They're not concerned about beta-carotene, or what diseases they might get when they're 50. They're much more in the moment."

The new concept follows recent research on current promotional fruit and vegetable campaigns, which concluded that in general, recent efforts have been mainly ineffectual. One of their key findings was that general campaign efforts were less successful than those geared towards a specific group, such as children — which might provide some encouragement for the new kid-focused snacking concept.

This latest effort is just one of a range of campaigns aimed at children to promote a healthier lifestyle. Last fall, First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign teamed up with “Sesame Street” and the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), to try to use some of kids’ favorite characters to promote fresh fruit and vegetable consumption.

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