More and more, people are thinking twice about the food they’re eating and its effect on their health, and their concern is amplified when it comes to feeding their babies. Distrust of baby food brands has hampered sales, turning parents away from the big brands to organic and homemade alternatives. Listen up healthy food marketers! If brands want to win back these moms’ and dads’ trust, they’ll need to be totally transparent.
Nearly half of parents with children younger than 3 years old think organic is important, and interest in the segment is expected to increase. As a result, many large brands have bought smaller organic baby food companies to serve this new demand, like Ella’s Kitchen, now owned by Hain Celestial, or Happy Family, now majority-owned by Danone.
According to Food Business News, the baby food industry struggled between 2008 and 2010, suffering a 9 percent decrease in sales as a result of the recession and changing lifestyles. However, the new interest in organic products spurred rapid growth in the organic segment, despite a decrease in sales volume of 4% per year for the category as a whole.
For some parents, organic baby food still doesn’t quite make the cut. Instead, they opt to make their own. These homemade purees account for about one-third of baby food consumed, according to a Beech-Nut-commissioned study.
Scandals like those of Gerber and Plum Organics don’t help the industry’s situation. Both were involved in lawsuits over their use of packaging that misrepresented the proportions of ingredients in their products, giving the impression that they use more real fruits and vegetables than they really do. A definite no no for healthy food marketers.
Apart from acquiring an organic baby food company, what can baby food brands do to compete with these alternatives? Take a note out of Beech-Nut’s playbook.
Beech-Nut was the first baby food maker in the U.S. to list the actual percentages of each ingredient in its jars and pouches on its website, and it plans to include them on labels as well. The brand also uses clear jars and labels so the food inside can be seen before purchase. Because many of their ingredients are hard to come by and many of their recipes are difficult to prepare, Beech Nut’s director of marketing says he is not worried parents will choose to make their own versions instead.
What Beech-Nut understands is that when it comes to selling baby food, transparency is key. Transparency reassures parents about the quality and nutritional value of products.
Though not all brands share Beech-Nut’s advantage of rare ingredients and labor-intensive recipes, they can still practice transparency. Take extreme care not to mislead parents. Healthy food marketers, be honest about your product and make claims about its true benefits. Not all parents want organic or homemade baby food, but they do want safe and nutritious baby food—and they want to buy it from a company they trust.