New frozen entrée brand targeted at organic buyers

After being at the helm of Toronto-based Jobshark.com for five years, Matthew von Teichman knew what he didn't want: to be directing a firm, such as a Web recruitment service company, that was subject to every hiccup in the economy. And since people will always need to eat, this 'discovery process' culminated in the launch of a new frozen food entrée brand.

After being at the helm of Toronto-based Jobshark.com for five years, Matthew von Teichman knew what he didn’t want: to be directing a firm, such as a Web recruitment service company, that was subject to every hiccup in the economy. And since people will always need to eat, this ‘discovery process’ culminated in the launch of a new frozen food entrée brand.

Von Teichman’s new Life Choices Natural Foods line-up is somewhat distinct from the typical fare, such as Lean Cuisine or Michelina’s, that you’d find in your grocery freezer – the ingredients are organic. ‘I found that the natural category was the biggest growth market in food,’ says the entrepreneur. ‘Consumers are looking for healthy choices now, and I don’t mean low fat, but food without pesticides, herbicides, and chemicals they can’t pronounce.’

Certainly, a two-year-old survey from market research firm Environics International indicates Canadians are increasingly open to organic meals – 71% of Canadians had at least tried organic foods and 40% made those choices fairly often (more than once or twice a year.) According to NPD Group Canada, weekly eating frequency of organic foods by those who had eaten them at least once before increased 90% for the 12 months ending March 2002 versus March 1998.

Life Choices, whose only competitor is U.S.-based Amy’s Organics, is targeted at occasional organic buyers who are pressed for time, including professionals, dual-income families, singles and health-conscious baby boomers. In consumer research, von Teichman found consumers wanted the product to fulfill three needs – health, convenience and taste. ‘Given an opportunity, they would buy organic as long as it met the taste profiles they were after. If it tasted bad, they weren’t going to buy even if it was organic, but if it tasted good, they would spend more for it.’

That was a message that von Teichman’s retail partners ate up. The five SKUs became available in 200-plus stores, including Loblaws, A&P and Whole Foods, in early November. David Lafferty, category specialist buyer for A&P, which sells the product for approximately $5.49, says he was impressed with its innovative nature. ‘[Von Teichman] had a fresh approach and picked two very exciting categories and melded them together. Frozen entrees is huge. Organics is an up-and-coming, growing category. He had a great idea.’

It also helped that von Teichman, who outsources his manufacturing, design and distribution, met with national grocery buyers before developing Life Choices. ‘I sat down with them, asked where there were holes in product lineup, what they would personally like to see and what consumers wanted in the natural food segment. They basically told me what to do.’

Packaging for Life Choices is meant to echo its ‘sophisticated appeal’; Toronto-based Logos Identity by Design was asked to stay away from white and green hues, or any imagery that would be ‘overly natural.’ Close-cropped product shots on a rich, royal blue background tantalize the taste buds, while fonts are ‘elegant.’

Jennifer Bellington, account director at Logos, says the goal was to convey an upscale, premium image. ‘There’s a lot of product in the organic market that has an almost medicinal look. [Von Teichman] didn’t want to go down that route, because he wanted to compete with the mainstream frozen entrée products.’

At the same time, Logos couldn’t entirely ignore the organic attributes of Life Choices, since it happens to be the brand’s main point of difference. ‘People are becoming aware of organic benefits and willing to pay extra for that,’ says Bellington. ‘That’s why we had to make the organic message very clear.’ As a result, the design emphasizes the sub-brand, which is ‘OrganiCuisine.’

For the time being, marketing activity will consist of in-store demos, so shoppers can actually sample the dishes, but von Teichman hopes to use outdoor in the future, and possibly TV, too. ‘The look of the dishes is very appealing, so as a visual medium, outdoor is appropriate.’ Plus, he points out, it worked for Jobshark.