Get functional

H2O with vitamins, pasta that keeps you regular and yogurt that grows your kid's brain. Packaged goods brands are borrowing attributes from the health category in hopes of outperforming their competition.

H2O with vitamins, pasta that keeps you regular and yogurt that grows your kid’s brain. Packaged goods brands are borrowing attributes from the health category in hopes of outperforming their competition.

‘It’s a trend with CPG firms that are trying to extend their varieties – instead of going deeper, they are going wide,’ says Susan Sanderson, EVP, account service and creative development at brand consultancy Watt International.

Sanderson, who leads the consumer brand practice at the agency, says companies are trying to differentiate from their competitive set by adding a little something extra that will give their brands more of a presence on shelves. As a result, some may be able to price their wares a little higher, she says, but the biggest benefit is encouraging trial among consumers who have never touched said brand before.

‘If you do something new, that you can flag on the package, that’s a way to gain consumer interest, while they’re zipping down the aisle. Possibly, if you add something truly and wholly unique, then you might be in an area where your competitor may not have a chance, because they don’t have that kind of product.’

Boucherville, Que.-based Danone Canada is hoping that’s what will happen with its new kids’ yogurt brand, Danino. Unlike its counterparts on the shelf, Danino has an extra ingredient – DHA, a marine source Omega 3 – which is recognized by Health Canada as playing a role in the normal development of the brain.

But Danino, which launched last month, isn’t Danone’s first functional yogurt product. Activia contains BL, a culture exclusive to Danone that is proven to keep the digestive system in tiptop shape, while Cardivia has marine-based mega-3 fatty acids that are important for cardiovascular health. They debuted in fall 2004, and January 2006 respectively.

Marketing director Tom Pugh says the manufacturer’s strategy is to increase overall consumption of yogurt in Canada, particularly since it lags behind European markets by about five times. The point is to persuade Canucks to consume a ‘yogurt a day,’ by giving them an additional reason to do so. ‘By taking a leader role and…giving them new choices that are generally meaningful to them – that’s how we hope to increase category consumption and gain new consumers.’

In the case of Danino, Danone hopes to get its message across through mass advertising, as well as sampling initiatives, on-pack promos such as puzzles and games, and through PR, mainly fuelled by collaboration with the scientific community. The latter, says Pugh, is an essential component.

‘Before talking to the consumer – and this is something that separates us from the competition – we put time and resources into communicating to health care professionals and scientific experts,’ he says. ‘We want to make sure that if a consumer even walks into a conversation with a doctor, they will never say: ‘I don’t know or believe in that product.”

Thus Danone relies on the experts’ input during development of product; for instance, Danino includes fish-based as opposed to vegetable source Omega-3, because docs find the former most beneficial.

If the experience of Activia is any indication, Danone is likely to taste success with these tactics. In launching Activia, the company focused on educating consumers through cross-country roadshows, which saw a fleet of vehicles, sporting the brand’s green colour code, hit up the 30+ target in urban centres. Danone’s brief to its promo agencies, CIM2005 in Montreal and Celsius Communication in the rest of Canada, was to get the product in as many hands as possible, so that consumers would know the yogurt was yummy, as well as nutritious.

And again, Danone worked with the scientific community – even providing doctors with tear pads containing info on Activia, which could then be handed to patients complaining of constipation. (The idea for the tear pads was the brainwave of the nutrition department at Danone, and came out of conversations with docs about tools they’d find useful.) Meanwhile, a mass ad campaign depicted folks in motion to deliver the notion that Activia allows them to move freely.

While Danone is actually limited in what it can communicate in advertising – the firm is currently working with Health Canada on a claim – Activia already accounts for just under 9% of sales in the category nationwide. And in Quebec, where it launched a tad earlier, the latest household penetration levels were over 20% at press time. Cardivia’s results look even more promising – Pugh says early shipments are outpacing those of Activia at launch.

Similarly, Ronzoni Foods has added Omega 3 and flax seed oil to its Catelli Healthy Harvest pasta, in an effort to create buzz, as well as trial. Sandra Kim, marketing manager at the Toronto-based firm, says the pasta category is flat, but because the manufacturer consistently introduces new varieties, the brand is growing at a rate of 32%.

‘Innovation in general drives interest,’ she says. ‘Flax got a lot of publicity, so it’s top of mind, and that basically gives consumers one more reason to try the product,’ says Kim who says that of Catelli’s 12 varieties, flax is already at number seven and climbing. ‘We know from research, that once customers are in the franchise, they stay, and wind up buying more and more.’

Because the noodles contain a special health benefit, the company can charge a bit more than the typical price for pasta, says Kim, although the cost is still less than two dollars a pop. And for the first time, Ronzoni has invested in national mass advertising for Catelli. A TV spot from Cossette depicts a kid and his grandpa stating their dislike for healthy food like ‘tofu,’ while simultaneously consuming Healthy Harvest, much to mom’s delight. The brand has also hooked up with Disney, which approached Ronzoni for a current promo around the DVD launch of Lady and the Tramp, which makes sense, given the famous pasta scene in the flick. And perhaps most impressively, the company was able to tie into a cross-category in-store Health Check promo, which included signage and flyer support from national grocery chains, during the month of January.

Like Danone, a key for Ronzoni is to avoid jumping on fads, as so many players did with the low-carb faze, and instead tap into trends that are expected to last over time. ‘We earmark top ingredients and keep an eye on them,’ says Kim. ‘We looked at the bread and cereal categories and looked at what they did, in terms of providing healthy options. We saw a lot of coverage on Omega 3, and how manufacturers of eggs, milk and bread [were getting involved] and that prompted us to investigate this.’

At the end of the day though, it doesn’t matter what you put in water, yogurt or pasta – if it tastes like crap, people will avoid it just as readily as they’d avoid any potential health risk. Perhaps more so. Thus, getting the product right is the first challenge, followed closely by getting consumers to actually try it.

Says Danone’s Pugh: ‘When you talk about healthy products that deliver health benefits, people think it will be like medicine, that it won’t taste good. Well, it’s absolutely critical to surpass expectations when it comes to trial.’ Sounds like a no-brainer, but have you ever tried Sprite Ice?

Propel to the rescue

There’s stealing consumers and then there’s winning ‘em back. Gatorade is hoping to do both with its one-year-old Propel Vitamin Supplement, a ‘fitness water’ product.

‘Our goal [is to] reach consumers who are active, but no longer choose Gatorade as they don’t want the extra calories,’ says Mississauga, Ont.-based marketing manager Jeff Jackett, who points out that a 500 ml-serving of Propel has only 20 calories compared to 120 for Gatorade.

Company research also indicated that vitamins are likely reason enough for the target to buy Propel over other flavoured waters, especially since active consumers feel they don’t get enough nutrition in their regular diet. It also overcomes the challenge Pepsi QTG has had in developing a ‘Gatorade Light’ type product. Jackett explains that doing so would mean removing some of the functional benefit. ‘It was about: ‘How else can we reach committed exercisers with product that’s relevant to them?” he says. Propel, which comes in five fruity flavours, will be promoted through TV, as well as print, in-gym advertising and sampling. (Downtown Partners did the ads; FDI Marketing provided in-field sampling.)

The product is being positioned as ‘vitamin charged’ and carries the tagline ‘made for bodies in motion.’ LD