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Cereal entrepreneurs seek to engage kids in effort to improve category's nutrition

By Hank Schultz

28-May-2014
Last updated on 28-May-2014 at 18:16 GMT

The marketing of Bitsy's Brainfood features characters, stories and games to engage children.
The marketing of Bitsy's Brainfood features characters, stories and games to engage children.

The founders of Bitsy’s Brainfood, which has launched a new line of childrens’ breakfast cereals to go with its cookies, used their experience as mothers and working with kids in eductation and nonprofit organizations to drive their goals for the brand, which is to improve the nutrition of the category in a fun, engaging way.

“One of the biggest things to get kids to eat better is to operate from a place of reality,” co-founder Maggie Jones Patton told FoodNavigator-USA. 

Experience with obesity

Patton, like her partner Alexandra Buckley Voris, is a mother living in Manhattan.  The pair met while working together in trying to combat childhood obesity, and from that experience Patton said they knew that making positive food choices had to be made fun for kids.  It had to be something kids wanted to do, rather than something imposed from above.

“We are really using a lot of the tools we know work effectively with kids, things that the organic brands shied away from.  Those products went in a different direction from the bright colors we knew would attract kids.  Kids have to love what they are eating and have to want to pick that box out at the supermarket,” she said.

“It was really through that work addressing childhood obesity that brought us to this space for innovation and creating a new category for kids,” Voris said.

The pair saw what had worked in the mainstream cereal aisle to push mostly empty calories laced with loads of sugar.  Tony the Tiger.  Captain Crunch.  Rather than eschew that approach, they decided to embrace it.  

“We created our own line of characters,” Patton said.  Chief among these is Bitsy herself, a perky redhead who engages children on the boxes to partake in the brain teasers printed on the inside of the box, with more available for download on the website. This is core to the brand’s goals, namely to fuel kids’ brains with proper nutrition and challenge them at the same time.

Fruits and vegetables

On the nutrition side, Patton and Voris said they wanted to prove that proper nutrition could be tasty and fun for kids.  The company’s line of cereals and cookies (the cookiies were first to market) contains ingredients like carrots, squash, broccoli and spinach.  The cereal line features three flavors: Fruit & Veggie 1,2,3, Carrot Raisin Crunch, and Banana Squash Squares, and contains a full suite of vitamins and minerals and 3 grams or more of fiber per serving.

“So often the food industry has sort of taught people to believe that chocolate and graham and cinnamon and vanilla are the only yummy flavors out there.  Broccoli can taste good. Sweet potatoes can, too. There is a quarter-serving of fruits and vegetables in every serving of our products. We are baking these in a very natural way,” Patton said.

But key to the entire message is that engagement piece with kids, Patton said. It matters not what’s in the box if kids won’t advocate for its purchase.

“You have the natural and organic aisle on the other side of the store.  And you have the cereal aisle with all those bright colors.  Which side are kids going to want to go to?” she said.

“We wanted to put out a cereal that nutritionally is better than any on the market but that is also one that kids go to and actually pick,” Patton said.

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