ANAHEIM, CALIF. — Set to launch from Plum Organics, a business unit of the Campbell Soup Co., is a new line of organic cheddar crackers for toddlers called Mighty Dinos. In developing the product, Emeryville, Calif.-based Plum Organics leveraged the expertise of Campbell Soup’s Pepperidge Farm unit, which manufactures Goldfish crackers. Mighty Dinos is one example of how Plum Organics has benefited from its partnership with Campbell Soup, which acquired the baby and toddler food business in 2013.
|Ben Mand, senior v.p. of marketing and innovation for Plum Organics|
“From a Campbell/Plum perspective, it has been a really great partnership,” said Ben Mand, senior vice-president of marketing and innovation for Plum Organics, in an interview with Food Business News. “As an example, when we’re looking to develop new products and looking at unique ingredients, from a food processing standpoint we believe in getting the very best to little ones from the very first bite, so we’re always looking at different ancient grains, fruits and vegetables. One of the things they have been helpful in is procuring those types of ingredients. As you can imagine, organic sourcing is a challenge. It takes cultivating relationships with a number of different parties. That has been really helpful for us.
“In addition to that, bringing technology knowhow… and understanding in food, nutrition, even packaging engineering.”
Mighty Dinos were one of several new products highlighted by Plum Organics at Natural Products Expo West, held March 10-13 in Anaheim. The brand also showcased its new Mighty Mealtime line of toddler meals, including two varieties of oatmeal with ancient grains and fruit, and two varieties of whole-wheat macaroni and cheese with vegetables. Plum Organics also is introducing a line of meatballs for children in such varieties as Italian turkey, garden chicken and teriyaki beef. Made with organic meat, ancient grains and vegetables, the products debuted initially as a Target exclusive and now are rolling out to other retailers nationwide.
Another innovation from Plum Organics at Expo West marks the brand’s foray into the infant formula category. Plum’s Organic Infant Formula contains milk from cows not treated with rBST and organic lactose as the sole source of carbohydrates rather than added corn syrup solids found in other infant formula brands. The product is available on-line at plumorganics.com and will launch in select retailers in the coming months, including Target, Whole Foods Market, Sprouts Farmers Market, Babies R Us and Buy Buy Baby.
|Larissa Friesen, Plum Organic’s infant formula lead|
“It’s been a longstanding research project for us,” Larissa Friesen, Plum’s infant formula lead, told Food Business News. “Over five years of research and development went into it. Really, we’re a company for parents by parents, so a lot of what drove our thinking around here is that many of us have gone through the experience of feeding an infant ourselves, and while a large majority of moms intend to breastfeed, myself included, the reality is that a lot aren’t able to achieve that gold standard of exclusively breastfeeding for six months, then breastfeeding for six to 12 months or more until babies weaned.”
Much of the inspiration and insights driving innovation at Plum Organics come from within.
“Many of us are parents and have good intuition as to the types of things, the pain points and the challenges,” Mr. Mand said. “Beyond that, we spend a ton of time with consumers. We have what we call the Plum Inner Circle, which is a longitudinal panel of parents that we start with baby, and they graduate into tots and then into kids. We often meet with them. I’ll have coffee with members to chat about parenting and food. We bring them into focus groups and share products and concepts with them. We do a lot of co-development with them because it’s imperative we have good fingertip intuition as to (the problems) we’re really trying to solve and what products are most compelling.”
As for its partnership with Campbell Soup, Mr. Mand said Plum Organics has benefited from the Camden, N.J., company’s resources and capabilities while retaining control in product development.
“One of the things we feel is really important and has really been the case is our ability to remain autonomous and to really focus on the challenges in babies and tots and kids, as well as that millennial consumer,” Mr. Mand said.
Regarding Mighty Dinos, which bear similarities in appearance to Goldfish crackers, Mr. Mand said the products target different consumer segments and offer different attributes.
“This is being sold in the baby/toddler aisle, so from the size and how it crunches and dissolves in a toddler’s mouth, it’s actually different in that regard,” he said. “It’s organic, so the price points are going to be higher.“That said, they (at Campbell Soup) have a good understanding that all of us have to continue to push forward. I think there was a time, and there probably still is in the far reaches of bigger organizations, this fear of cannibalizing your business, and if you operate that way, one, you’re not going to innovate, and, two, eventually you’re not going to be relevant.”