Testing New Choices: What’s For Lunch, Mom?

This new product ad in the newspaper caught my attention.

Active Packs Ad

The State Journal-Register (Springfield, ILL) – 9/16/2009

The headline and targeting are attention grabbers.  Okay, I’m biased, having worked extensively in food, beverage and wellness marketing.  Still, I think the ad will appeal to moms trying to help their kids eat better, and the positioning won’t turn off the kids either.

Active Packs are produced by Armour-Eckrich Meats, who describes the products as “convenient portable lunch kit options that are American Heart Association certified and made with high quality ingredients parents can embrace.”  There are four, 6-ounce serving varieties:  Cheese Pizza, Turkey Wraps, Ham & Cheese and Chicken & Cheese.  All varieties come with crisp apple slices and fat free caramel dip and are good sources of calcium and protein.  Active Packs will retail for $2.99 each.

Armour-Eckrich has a section about the Healthy Ones brand on its Web site, although there is no mention of the new Active Packs sub-brand.  The separate Web site for Active Packs has only has two pages.  The home page is a questionnaire about Active Packs products (good idea to get customer reaction), which if submitted, triggers a coupon to the consumer for an unspecified “savings.”  If you read this page carefully, there is a link within text for product information, which takes you to a second page that has a short description of each product.

The reason for the low-key Internet marketing is, as I suspected, that Active Packs are in test market, which the company confirmed.  The products are  currently in limited distribution in the Midwest.  Availability began in mid-September at Martin’s Supermarkets in the South Bend, Indiana region; County Market in Central Illinois including Springfield, Decatur and Champaign-Urbana; and in Kroger grocery stores in Indianapolis, Indiana.  In October, San Antonio-based H-E-B Groceries is scheduled to have retail availability.

At County Market, Active Packs were on sale two for $5.00, and the $.75 tear-pad instant redeemable coupon netted the final purchase price at $1.75.  Consumers using the newspaper coupon can try a product for $1.50.  Healthy Ones Active Packs seem to be in direct competition with Kraft Foods’ Oscar Mayer Lunchables products, who do have a bit of a head start in this category, so marketing programs that generate awareness and trial will be critical.  Lunchables were selling at $3.09 each, $.10 higher than the Active Packs regular price.

The newspaper ad, coupons, and reduced pricing are a good trial-generating start for Active Packs.  Underscoring Armour-Eckrich’s challenge, the overhead hanging tag identifying the portion of the refrigerated case containing Active Packs and Lunchables simply said “Lunchables.”  Whether Armour-Eckrich sees a real category opportunity (healthier positioning?  older target?) and/or is looking to create more demand for its Healthy Ones meats (Active Packs contain Healthy Ones oven roasted turkey breast, oven roasted chicken and honey ham) is a good question.  Taking on the leader is always a tough battle.


New product launches, especially national rollouts in the food and beverage grocery business, can be very expensive, so gaining an initial read on the success potential may be a viable option.  Giving the market leader a head-start preparing its defense plan is cause for concern, though.  The same marketing principles apply in the test market.  Make sure your concept and positioning are correct (differentiated benefits are best), and that it’s easy to learn about and then buy your product or service.  With so many communication channels and tactics available to choose from today, marketers have the ability to leverage multiple communications platforms.  Also, when you launch a new product or service, make sure all the introductory materials are ready for your sales team, customer relations team and for your customers.  Trial generation is hard, let alone developing sustained, repeat business, so be sure to have marketing in-place to achieve both objectives.

Harvey Chimoff is a hands-on marketing leader and business-wide collaborator who builds marketing capabilities in B2B/B2C organizations that drive customer success.



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