Speaking on day three of the summit yesterday, Shannon Neumann, senior manager of SnackFutures Innovation, explained: "That lunchtime occasion is difficult. At most schools you have twenty minutes to get to lunch, to eat, and to socialize with your friends."
Once that twenty minutes is up, many kids come home with lunchboxes with untouched food still in it at the end of the day, a frustration for parents that likely spent precious morning hours to pack 'a bento box' of options for their child to eat at lunch.
"The things that come home are perhaps the things that are a little harder to eat in that occasion," Neumann said.
Neumann explained that while the project didn't start with a particular food type in mind, she and her team knew they needed to deliver on a set of nutritional criteria including no artificial preservatives, flavors, colors, no high fructose corn syrup, and no added sugar.
Ruckus and Co. lunchbox frozen smoothie shakeups contain fruit puree, organic whole milk, veggies such as sweet potato or purple carrot, flax or chia (depending on the flavor), and water. SnackFutures also created a non-dairy version made with coconut milk, and is working on additional SKUs with more veggies.
Smoothies were the ideal first product for Ruckus and Co. because it mimicked a common behavior of many families at home, according to Neumann.
"This is behavior that's happening at home. Parents are making fresh fruit and vegetable smoothies on the weekends, but it's not convenient to do in the morning during the school week and send it off to school with your kids."
The smoothies come frozen in individual bottles packaged in a 6-pack box (SRP $1.59-$2 per 6-ounce bottle) and are chilled and ready to go by lunchtime. Ruckus and Co. will have a pilot launch at select retailers in January 2020.
"Ordinarily, in an environment like this, it's probably a two to two and half year process," said Marc Halperin, CEO & culinary director of CCD Innovation.
Implementing CCD Innovation's co-creation process, however, the food development team was able to cut the timeline down by half, according to Halperin.
"Our process of co-creation involves not only the consumer, but believe it or not, their parents as well, and our development kitchen," said Halperin.
Having a strong direction from the client, as well culinary-inclined kids who when they were not in school were "glued to Iron Chef on the TV" to test the product and give their honest feedback, and adaptable product development team, are all key elements to the co-creation process, explained Halperin.
"Through a process like this, you can re-iterate the formulation of the products three or four times in an effort to hone down and to focus the taste, the flavor, the delivery of the product to exactly what the kids are interested in," explained Halperin.
Creating the ultimate kids brand
"A 6- to 12-year old, they're still very much bringing lunch to school but they're changing so quickly," said Neumann, adding that there are plenty products targeted towards, babies, toddlers, and young kids, but a tween-focused brand was a gap in the market.
"What we found is those kids wake up one day and they think they're little adults, so they don't want products that seem too young," said Neumann.
Pleasing two audiences: Kids, and their parents/caregivers
With the product formulation nailed down, a brand name needed to be created, and to do that SnackFutures enlisted the help of creative design agency Interact Boulder, which has worked with scores of emerging and established brands including Koia, Enjoy Life Foods, and Bobo's.
"The tough part is we have two audiences that we have to speak to at the same time. We have parents who are gatekeepers to the home and need to understand the proposition, and secondly, kids that absolutely have to live the brand. They're the ones that experience and bring it to school," said Fred Hart, partner and creative director, at Interact Boulder.
"What we didn't want to do is build a brand for kids, that told them they were kids," Hart said. Therefore, the brand had to resonate with the pre-teen audience whose "rite of passage" is going to Starbucks without their mom to buy a Refresher.
"What we wanted to do is find visual and verbal territory for the brand around 'kid-dulting', about taking the energy and youth of kids and also maturing it up a little bit," Fred Hart.
"The name Ruckus and Co. was really upgrading the free spirit of kids....and 'Ruckus' is about shaking things up."