Putting a spin on baby carrots

Jul 28, 2011

A few weeks ago, I attended the California Childhood Obesity Conference, where I heard Bryan Reese, Chief Marketing Officer, of Bolthouse Farms speak about the brilliant marketing campaign launched by "A bunch of carrot farmers."

Baby carrots were "invented" in the 1990s and became an instant hit. Not only did it transform the industry, but American consumers doubled their consumption of carrots in the ensuing decade. Then, a couple of years ago, after this remarkable growth, consumption began to fall.

Reese credits the decline to a number of factors, the economy being a primary one.  Consumers were trying to save money, so they were buying regular carrots. Since those carrots need peeling, washing and cutting at home, a lot of those carrots were relegated to what the industry calls "the drawer of death" - your refrigerator's vegetable bin - where they remained uneaten.

To make a long story short, Bolthouse hired an edgy ad agency with a client list that includes Kraft Foods, Dominos Pizza and Coke Zero. The campaign aimed to turn the brand on its head: Stop marketing baby carrots as a vegetable and start marketing them as a snack.

"The snack food industry was already trying to make their products appear healthy. We're already healthy. Look! One ingredient!" quipped Reese in his presentation.

In two test markets, a $25 million campaign was launched, including media, a web site, vending machines in schools, repackaging of the product, and a marketing tie-in with the animated movie Hop. No longer sitting demurely in the produce aisle, baby carrots were transformed into an extreme snack whose packaging and marketing resemble chips.

extreme baby carrots

The results:  Baby carrot consumption in the test markets increased by 10 to 12 percent, vending machines were dispensing 80 to 90 individual packs per week, schools were inquiring about installing their own machines, and the campaign started generating enviable national PR buzz.

What's next? A national roll out of the campaign. So look for Extreme Baby Carrots in a refrigerated case near you.

By Cynthia Kintigh
Author - Marketing Director