The growing public interest in both nutrition and green issues is having a huge impact on the organic food sector — driving not just sales growth, but also the ways in which the industry markets its products, as well as the type of consumer it targets.
“The audience that we’re reaching out to today is not what you’d describe as ‘crunchy granola,’” explains Hilary Bromberg, strategic director at Seattle-based Egg, a full-service brand communications firm specializing in sustainable clients. “Things like the Al Gore movie [An Inconvenient Truth] and other news have made these consumers far more aware of toxicity issues and what they’re putting in their bodies.”
Organic and all-natural marketers have responded by creating campaigns that emphasize education. “A lot of people still don’t understand what organic means, so they’re hungry for information,” Bromberg continues. “So, consumer education is key because that’s what is going to drive changes in behavior.”
Rachel Ambrose, director of marketing for Portland, ME-based Good Clean Food, which specializes in all-natural Simmer Savers, says much of that education is done through product packaging that puts the ingredients list up front and center, rather than buried in small print. But with more consumers turning to online sources for nutrition information, many organic companies also are investing heavily in online programs, including microsites that provide background not just on how the products are made but also let the public know the background of the company behind them.
“We have a wonderful story to tell, but it’s not something that a traditional marketing campaign can convey,” explains Donald Freytag, the group brand director of Brown Foreman who oversees the company’s Bonterra organic wines line. Bonterra is the official wine of the Professional Golf Association (PGA) and is currently working with the golfing league on Green the Greens, a program that aims to makes golf courses more environmentally friendly.
Through their partnership, Bonterra has placed banner ads on the official PGA Web site that drive consumers to the Bonterra site. “We know that many golfers and golf fans are also consumers of premium wines,” Freytag explains. “So, we need a vehicle such as the PGA and our Green the Greens program to help bring awareness to what the brand is all about,”
Bromberg says organic marketers also are more willing to use a variety of online channels, including search, to drive Web site traffic. “E-mail is a tool that we can use, but you really need to have something to offer,” she says. “These brands realize they have to get found as well as produce a site that people find interesting.”
Thanks to growing consumer awareness, the organic and natural products industry is seeing double-digit growth, according to the Organic Trade Association. But many of the companies in the space remain fairly small, with little room for marketing outside of packaging, an aggressive sampling strategy and a Web presence.
“Sampling is the most powerful weapon that we have,” explains Maria Emmer-Aanes, director of marketing for Richmond, British Columbia-based Nature’s Path. “We make sure we put our URL on sample packs, and we have ‘Buy One, Share One’ coupons.”
Many organic products also rely on strong word of mouth to spread their messages, and the Web plays a growing role in this area. Ambrose says Good Clean Food solicits testimonials from customers that the-sauce company then posts on its Web site.
Nature’s Path worked with Seattle-based marketing firm Egg on this current campaign that combines offline channels, such as outdoor billboards, with an online microsite. Though getting consumers to sample Nature Path’s line of organic snacks is the primary goal, Nature’s Path and Egg also used the site to educate the organic consumer audience about the company’s values.
Bonterra, the organic wine division of Brown-Foreman, recently partnered with the Professional Golf Association on this campaign to promote environmentally friendly golf courses. The program, which runs through the end of the current PGA season, leverages banner ads on PGA.com to drive consumers and golf course managers to a microsite, bonterragreenthegreens.com.
Euro RSCG Chicago worked with Wasa on this online campaign to raise awareness of the company’s Crispbread as an important addition to a holistic and healthy way of life among women. Featuring bright colors, a nature-themed design and the company’s tag line “Eat Wasa. Feel Good,” these banner ads on WeightWatchers.com offered consumers a $1 discount.