Grain Foods campaign adds cost savings to message

by Josh Sosland
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RIDGWAY, COLO. — Consumer spending cutbacks in an uncertain economic environment has prompted a shift in the approach taken by the Grain Foods Foundation in its efforts to promote bread and other flour-based foods. It its fall campaign, to be launched Sept. 10 in New York, the advantages of "brown bagging" will be promoted, the economic and caloric savings possible when consumers pack their own lunch.

According to the Foundation, the emphasis on bagged lunches cuts to the heart of a dominant and growing consumer behavior.

Citing NPD Group data, the Foundation said, "Brown bagging has become more popular than ever with American consumers expected to carry some 8.5 billion brown bag lunches this year."

Elaborating on the data, the Foundation said two thirds of women pack a lunch for themselves, a figure expected to grow. This projection was based on a Harris Interactive Survey conducted on behalf of the Grain Foods Foundation in which 37% of women surveyed said they plan to pack their own lunch more often in the coming year than in the past year.

In Brown Bag Campaign, the Grain Foods Foundation will be encouraging consumers to pack their own lunches with an on-line savings tool to help consumers track the money they are saving and the calories they are cutting by packing a lunch.

In its campaign, the Foundation is partnering with Kate Gosselin, who is the mother in Jon and Kate Plus Eight, a popular reality show about a family with six-year-old twins and two-year-old sextuplets. According to the Foundation, Ms. Gosselin will "provide brown bagging tips that make it easy for moms to pack a healthy, affordable and satisfying lunch for themselves and their families."

Judi Adams, president of the Foundation, emphasized the degree to which a bagged lunch hits a sweet spot for the grain-based foods industry.

"Grains are an ideal choice at lunch since they provide much-needed energy and sustenance to make it through the day," Ms. Adams said. "Plus, grain foods such as sandwiches, pretzels, crackers and granola bars are convenient, delicious and portable, making them brown bag friendly."

The launch of the campaign is timed to coincide with the back-to-school timeframe. In addition to print advertising, which has been a mainstay of past G.F.F. campaigns, on-line banner advertising will be a focus this year. Web sites such as About.com, AllRecipes.com, FoodNework.com and MyRecipes.com will feature the G.F.F. message. The on-line placement will use interactive Internet advertising technology that allows web surfers to engage with the G.F.F. campaign using their mouse to hover above the banner ad. Once users click on the ad, they will be able to use the annual cost and calorie calculator.

Full page advertisements will be placed in the October, November and December issues of Cooking Light magazine.

"The advertising component of the campaign drives consumers to grainpower.org to track their financial and caloric savings as well as to enter to win free groceries for a year," the Foundation said.

Ms. Gosselin will participate in a G.F.F. national publicity tour, promoting the value of packing a lunch that includes grain-based foods. Her participation will include television, radio and newspaper interviews.

The fall campaign is the first by the G.F.F. that does not feature a recipe contest. Last year, consumers were invited to submit recipes for a healthy snack and in 2006 healthy sandwich recipes were solicited.

The shift to brown bagging also represents a larger move from the health- and-wellness-centric approach of the G.F.F. campaigns in earlier years. While the healthfulness of grain-based foods is part of the message in the 2008 campaign, it is the economy of grain-based foods that has emerged as a key theme.

"When we began several years ago, the industry still was dealing with the aftermath of the Atkins diet and the image of bread and grain-based foods needed to be repaired," said Kristin L. Patterson of Mullen, the public relations agency engaged by the G.F.F. "As consumer impressions of grain-based foods have improved, we have been able to shift our message toward a topic of increasing concern to consumers — the rising cost of living."

The Harris survey conducted by the Foundation showed that 81% of women indicated that money was the principal reason they packed their lunch. Women with children at home are more likely to pack a lunch (71%) than those without (59%).

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