Lessons from the kale fairytale

Posted on:
August 10, 2017
Julian Mellentin

Kale was once the ugly duckling of the vegetable world. But it surprised everyone by blossoming into one of the coolest.

After initial success in America, kale has even spread its wings in Europe – you can buy high-protein kale quark in Finland and kale popcorn in France.

According to IRI, sales of products with kale grew 123% between 2013 and 2016 in the US. Mintel says that launches of products with kale increased 180% in the same period.

So how did this kale fairytale happen? There isn’t a simple answer, but here are some of the factors that worked for kale and that are key to making any natural food cool:

1. Make sure it’s nutritious – and talk about it. A lot.
Kale is high in vitamins C, K and A and its a source of calcium, iron and other minerals. While other vegetables are even bigger nutrient powerhouses than kale (spinach, chicory, other cabbages…) many consumers think kale is the uber-superfood of all greens – and that’s because the media talks about kale and its health benefits, a lot.

2. Make sure it’s versatile.
Kale works in smoothies, salads, sauces, snacks, beverages and spread. The options are endless, which makes it easier to give consumers new and exciting ways of incorporating kale in their diet.

3. Get it in the hip and trendy restaurants.
Kale salad – now a pretty regular option in many restaurants – could only be found in the trendiest ones a couple of years ago. In 2013, the New York Times wrote that kale salads were the “fashionable plat du jour”. If you want to make a vegetable cool, make sure it’s showing up in the recipes and menus of the cool chefs.

4. Find the right “good fairies”.
Key influencers played a big role in kale’s fortunes. Back in 2009 Dr. Oz introduced kale chips as one of his favourite snacks. In 2011, Ellen DeGeneres and Gwyneth Paltrow were making kale chips on Ellen’s TV show. In 2012 National Kale Day was born, created by a team headed by Drew Ramsey, a psychiatrist, farmer and author of the “50 Shades of Kale” recipe book. Even Beyonce stepped in with a “KALE” sweatshirt on her 7/11 music video.

5. The power of PR
The “godmother” of kale is Oberon Sinclair, founder of My Young Auntie, a boutique PR agency. She claimed to have been hired by the American Kale Association (AKA) to “make kale cool” in 2013. In 2016 the National Geographic called her the “woman behind the Big Kale”. Oberon has confirmed in a media interview that in fact it was she who created the AKA, its website and social media presence, describing it as her “Proudest campaign ever. I’ve been trying to convert people for years to eat in a healthy way. I’ve always loved [kale]. It is an amazing vegetable.”

Kale is now an established ingredient, available in mainstream retailers. Even McDonalds is adding it to their products. Whether kale will be able to keep its momentum is another question, but its journey is an inspiring one for anyone wondering what’s going to be “the next big superfood”.

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In NNB this month: plant burgers and ginger shots

Posted on:
August 6, 2017
Julian Mellentin

Can plant-based products do to meat what they have done to dairy? Can a pea protein-based burger deliver on consumers’ expectations of ‘natural’? These are the two big questions faced by the roll-out of the Beyond Burger in the chilled meat cabinets of America’s supermarkets.

Merchandising is at the heart of the strategy for Beyond Burger and it’s no accident that the company is taking the successful strategy of non-dairy plant milks as its model.

But consumers increasingly want their foods to be “as natural as possible”, with few ingredients, all easy to recognize – and Beyond Burger has 20. The risk is it could look like the opposite of simple and natural.

Japanese pharma group Otsuka is the latest big player to show its faith in plant-based non-dairy products, acquiring Daiya Foods (see Case Study in September 2016 New Nutrition Business). Daiya has grown rapidly by providing cheese, yoghurt and cheesecakes that are free-from dairy, gluten and most allergens. Pharma companies have been notably unsuccessful in food and health – Otsuka is the exception to this rule.

Coldpress, founded in 2011, is starting to make its mark enjoying double-digit growth even as UK consumers, as in so many other markets, increasingly shun fruit juices over concerns about their sugar content.

Maia yoghurt debuted ten years ago and – like most start-ups – the road has been long and full of challenges. However, patience is rewarded and Maia has found a niche for a product that is probiotic, high in protein and low in sugar.

Nourish shows the value of treating the early years of a new brand as a time to learn and adjust. In 2017 the company is rolling out a slimmed-down line of snacks with better recipes and a major packaging make-over and it is expanding distribution from an e-commerce subscription-only base into conventional retailing.

Ginger has a long traditional association with digestive wellness. Entrepreneur Zyad Moussa aims to build on that with Ginger Shot. A cold-pressed, HPP product that combines ginger extract and fruit juices in 2.5oz (74ml) bottles. The company is taking a slow-and-steady approach to building distribution.

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How do you appeal to health-conscious moms?

Posted on:
July 26, 2017
Julian Mellentin

Moms have always been a great force behind the success of food and beverage brands, but now they have become the ultimate gateway consumer for companies aiming at the natural, organic and healthy products segments – especially if they’re first-time parents.

Lisa Mabe, founder of GreenPurse, a specialty research and public relations consultancy, says they are a super-motivated consumer. “First-time moms represent a window of opportunity for both retailers and brands to catch a customer on the cusp of a new life stage,” Mabe said.

Mabe created a list of best-practice tips to hone in on health-oriented moms, and here is a selection of some of her ideas:

1. Go shop-along 
Shop with mothers to understand how they think, behave and buy in your category.

2. Produce mom-centric content 
Create visual content useful to moms, which will fuel visits to your website.

3. Help moms get the weekly shopping done 
Partner with retailers on instore programmes to educate and entertain moms and kids, making shopping easier.

4. Be a presence in trusted mom media 
Get coverage in media outlets with a focused mom following, rather than big mainstream media.

5. Organize or host mom meetups 
It’s a great way to get feedback about your products directly from the customers.

6. Utilize mom experts to advocate for your brand 
Work with mom experts with a strong media presence, such as nutritionists, dieticians, authors and bloggers, to create regular posts on your website.

7. Participate in industry and consumer events about moms or targeting moms 
Go for shows that are related to your product category, such as events about health and wellness, eating trends or gluten-free.

8. Be an industry presence and showcase your success in connecting with moms 
You can present your knowledge in marketing to moms by speaking at industry trade shows, or giving interviews for industry publications.

For more information, read the full article “Creating lifelong customers from health-oriented moms” in Kids Nutrition Report issue 60, 2017.

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