Plum has found great success, but wasn’t reaching kids who needed its products the most, said company founder Neil Grimmer.
“We started Plum a little over six years ago with the notion that every little one deservers the very best food from the very first bite. Six years later Plum is now the premier kids organic foods company in the US. We are in about 15,000 stores in the US and the UK. At this point we have about 150 organic healthy products,” Grimmer told FoodNavigator-USA.
“Yet with all of that success and all of that momentum it was clear there is this huge community we are not reaching today and that is the food insecure infants and toddlers,” Grimmer said.
Film made an impact
A screening at Plum’s headquarters of A Place at the Table, a documentary film made by Participant Media, put the issue into perspective, Grimmer said.
“We had about 40 Plum employees there. The film basically narrates a few families that are really struggling to make ends meet and are struggling to feed their kids.
“One thing is clear that those kids—there are 16 million of them in America—are not getting the nutrients they need to thrive. We stepped out of that film and said, ‘We are going to do something about this,’ ” he said.
Playing to their strengths
Plum’s forte was making products for kids, Grimmer said, so that’s where he felt the company could help most. The company worked with their nutrition advisor, pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene, to develop the food pouch called a Super Smoothie. The product, made with spinach, carrots, apples, white beans, oats, and chia, is also packed with micronutrients to supply a form of nutritional insurance for the kids of families who find themselves relying on food banks.
Food banks typically feature overstocked products or those nearing the end of their shelf lives, Grimmer said. In other words, it’s the food that’s left over, that’s available, not necessarily the food people need. And that’s especially true for the kids, he said.
“You’d see kids eating Crunch-n-Munch (a sweet popcorn snack) and that would be their food for the day,” Grimmer said.
To launch the program, called The Full Effect, Plum is partnering with Participant Media to ask the public to lend their social media voice to the issue of food insecurity and hunger in the U.S. Starting April 10th, people can get involved by visiting PlumOrganics.com/TheFullEffect to receive targeted messages for posting on their Twitter and Facebook profiles. These localized messages are powered by Participant Media's social action platform, Take Your Place.
Seeking ways to bring costs down
The next goal for the program would be to find partners to help scale up production of the pouches. Taking it from a production run of 500,000 pouches to, say, 10 million would provide significant economies of scale, Grimmer said. And cost is a huge stumbling block for food insecure families and the nonprofits agencies that serve them, Grimmer admitted.
“For the same dollar amount to buy 300 calories of fruit, you can buy almost 3,000 calories of chips and soda. If you have a limited budget you are looking to get the most bang or the buck and you are going to go for the most calorically dense foods,” he said. “Good food just costs more.
“We are seeing that hunger and obesity are intertwined. If we get these kids off to a healthy start right from the get go, we are not going to have all the medical costs associated with them growing overweight,” Grimmer said.
Grimmer said the Super Smoothies were a first for the US, a product designed specifically to be donated, and to meet the needs of the target consumers. An analogous product, designed for the donation channel in Sub Saharan Africa, is aimed more at providing basic nutrition to stave off starvation, he said.
“The crisis there is around calories. The problem in the US isn’t about calories; people can get plenty of calories. The problem in the US is about nutrition,” Grimmer said.