Organic toddler investment to build up future brand loyalty

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Rachel's Organic, a leading UK organic dairy manufacturer, has
launched an organic yoghurt range targeted towards the toddler
market, but is this just a sales-boosting gimmick or a rather
shrewd marketing strategy, asks Tom Armitage.

Although not the first organic yoghurt line to be launched in the UK, following similar product offerings from Yeo Valley and Highgrove Foods, the Welsh company has undoubtedly chosen a shrewd marketing strategy for its UK roll-out of the new products, securing distribution deals with upmarket UK multiple retailers Waitrose and Sainsbury's.

"Parents always want the best for their children - the baby and toddler food categories are the only organic categories on which nearly all parents are prepared to spend that little bit extra, irrespective of social class,"​ Amarjit Sahota, director of organic industry analysts Organic Monitor​ told​.

"As a result of being fed organic from an early age, toddlers will inevitably buy more organic products later in life, subsequently increasing their future market spend on organic and developing a subsequent loyalty to a particular brand,"​ he suggested.

The product launch earlier this month was particularly well-timed following heightened lobbying targeting the rising levels of obesity and dietary-related health problems in British children.

In September last year the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) revealed that food in the average child's lunchbox contained up to half the daily recommended intake of salt, with three out of four lunchboxes failing to meet government nutritional standards for school meals.

The Little Rachel's Organic yoghurt range will be available to buy in strawberry, banana, raspberry and apple and blackberry flavours, which each contain 22 per cent fruit content, and no colourings, preservatives, artificial flavourings, wheat, gluten or genetically modified (GM) ingredients.

However, despite burgeoning UK-wide demand for organic food and the fact that an estimated 50 per cent of all baby food currently sold in the UK is organic, not all organic foods tailored to a younger market have found instant retail success.

Noddy-branded milk, for instance, manufactured by Wilsthire-based Highgrove Foods, was withdrawn from the UK market following disappointing sales just over eighteen months ago - although the company has since launched a successful Noddy branded organic yoghurt, which quickly sealed UK distribution deals with leading UK multiple retailer Tesco.

"The toddler age-range is probably a suitable time to introduce organic foods, simply because products such as infant formula milk cannot be marketed as organic as they often contain a number of artificial functional ingredients,"​ commented Sahota.

The children's dairy-based dessert sector is already highly competitive, with further organic yoghurt offerings from leading UK organic dairy firm Yeo Valley, as well as non-organic products such as Yoplait Dairy Crest's Petit Filous Frubes brand.

According to Organic Monitor, the UK organic dairy sector was valued at £193 million (€276 million) in 2003, with a projected compound annual growth rate of 7.6 per cent over the next six or seven years.

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