Fixing food insecurity for tots through packaging innovation

Packaging takes a helpful turn at Plum Organics. The public benefit corporation designed its Super Smoothie pouch for donation. For every order placed on the Plum Store website, the company will donate a Super Smoothie to malnourished toddlers in the U.S.

Heather Cutter, vp of innovation at Plum PBC, will talk about development of the donation program and the packaging at the upcoming Sustainability in Packaging conference, March 5-7, in Orlando, FL. Visit www.sustainability-in-packaging.com to learn more about the event and to register.

Cutter gives Packaging Digest an exclusive preview of her presentation here.

 

What is Plum Organics mission and why?
Cutter:
Plum Organics is incorporated as PBC (Public Benefit Corporation). This means that we are required to have a purpose of creating "general public benefit." Plum's stated benefit is the delivery of nourishing, organic food to our nation's little ones, and raising awareness and advancing solutions for childhood hunger and malnutrition in the United States.

Our company was founded by parents who believe that healthy food is the future of food. At Plum Organics, we are simply passionate about nurturing and nourishing kids to help them achieve their greatest potential. By introducing our little ones to real food with a variety of delicious tastes and textures, we are developing their palates and inspiring a joy of lifelong healthy eating. 

Plum sells more than 160 healthy organic products in more than 15,000 stores in the U.S. and the U.K. However, we know there are still families we haven't reached. To reach more children and families, we created The Full Effect, Plum's program dedicated to nourishing little ones in need across America. We believe every little one deserves the nutrients she needs to grow into her full potential.

As part of The Full Effect, we enlisted the help of IDEO.org to better understand childhood hunger in America through ethnographic research. We knew we wanted to do something to help with food insecurity in this country, but we wanted to make sure we addressed it correctly. We looked at a range of ideas and intersected these ideas with what we are uniquely qualified to do. 

Ultimately, we decided to create a specially designed product to help meet the needs of food insecure babies and toddlers. The Super Smoothie, the first organic baby food pouch designed for the needs of food-insecure little ones, allows us to begin to address the issue of hunger in America and to maximize our capabilities as an innovator in the organic baby food space.

 

How is your packaging helping you achieve your goal?
Cutter:
Baby food in a pouch has catalyzed growth in the category over the last several years because of its portability and ease-of-use for parents and babies. 

However, for many of the parents and little ones we reach through The Full Effect, the pouch is a new packaging format. We knew we wanted our product to be in a pouch to maximize our expertise in design and formulation, as well as to use existing manufacturing and supply chain structures and relationships. So, as we developed our ideas, we spent time with various non-profit partner organizations and parents to understand how users would respond to the pouch format and what unique needs existed for this audience. 

On the packaging side, the unfamiliarity was somewhat of an easy hurdle to overcome. To validate that the pouch would be accepted, we took some of our existing pouch products to our partners and observed parents and kids during the donation process. At first, there were questions around whether the pouch was only for baby or if it was suitable for kids as well. Once parents handed the pouch to both their babies and older children, it was clear that the ease of use and portability was universal. 

Specifically, we found that the pouch is suitable in almost any situation, even in the case of natural disasters where simplicity is key and the pouch is advantageous as no utensils, dishes, fresh water or heating are required before serving. 

Graphically, there were key learnings from our ethnographic research that influenced imagery, language and content. We wanted our product to be approachable and familiar to a wide audience, taking in to account cultural and regional differences in diet and ingredients. Additionally, we knew that not everyone who received our pouch would have English as his or her first language, so we wanted to keep the communication simple and straightforward. 

The Super Smoothie packaging design is simple, leading with food images that are recognizable such as apples, carrots and spinach. Our surrounding educational materials use the same design and language. We specifically refrained from calling the pouch "baby food" so we could appeal to babies and kids of all ages. 

 

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