According to Nielsen sales data from 2018, FMCG sales for back-to-school shopping reached $15.9bn (also includes school supplies) during the second week of August with beverages (+9%), lunch meat (+5%), prepared foods (+4%), salty snacks (+3%), and sweet snacks (+2%) driving the most growth compared to the year prior.
However, the plan to reopen schools and in-person instruction has been either delayed, restructured, or yet to be determined for many areas of the country experiencing a resurgence of coronavirus cases. Many cities including Philadelphia, Houston, and Miami are exploring a hybrid teaching model of in-person and virtual learning, pushing back previous plans of reopening schools in August. Other districts are keeping with online remote learning through the fall.
“The decision of what will happen with school in the fall will have a huge impact on our business,” said Helene Caillate, chief marketing officer at GoGo squeeZ.
'The plan we had in communications didn’t feel appropriate during this time of pandemic and crisis'
The company experienced a massive spike in sales to its retail and e-commerce business in March followed by a slower month in April and stronger positive sales trends since May, according to Caillate, who says the brand’s priority has been striking the right marketing tone and brand messaging when so many of its consumers aren’t exhibiting their typical grocery shopping behaviors.
“In terms of brand strategy, the plan we had in communications didn’t feel appropriate during this time of pandemic and crisis. We shifted to something very community-oriented,” Caillate told FoodNavigator-USA. GoGo squeeZ built a nationwide donation program, which gave away three million pouches to parents and families in need.
The brand also pivoted its social media content to provide more wellness and nutrition information for home-bound families along with activity ideas in an effort to “reinvent summer” for its consumers.
GoGo squeeZ has become a lunchbox favorite for many families who gravitated towards the brand’s convenience – packaged in squeezable pouches – and nutrition as each pouch is made from a blend of pureed fruit, vegetables, and lemon juice concentrate.
Its full portfolio of products, which also includes fruit, fruit & veggie, and yogurt-based pouches, appeals to wide age range from children 3- and 4-years-old to tweens.
And despite the state of school lunchrooms and GoGo squeeZ's image as portable lunchtime snack, Caillate says that the brand is finding new relevance for parents who are looking for value-added products for their kids, a priority that has strongly emerged over the past few months.
“Shoppers are going to be more concerned about the value of what they buy and buying in bulk,” said Caillate.
GoGo squeeZ is seeing strong growth in its GoGo ‘Big’ squeeZ products, a newer launch for the brand, which contain 33% (4.2 ounces) more product than its original fruit and veggie pouches (3.2 ounces), and are packaged in multi-packs of 10 pouches.
The idea of value, Caillate said, also means offering added functional benefits to its products.
The brand recently launched its ‘happy tummieZ’ line of organic fruit puree pouches made with prebiotic fiber (from Jerusalem artichoke) catering to parents’ growing interest in gut-friendly products for their kids.
“For the rest of the year, two things that are very important for us are the launch of the two new platforms and the message of nutrition and how important nutrition is to the kids’ happiness and wellness especially during this time," she said.
And while the company has to wait and see what school reopening plans will look like for most of the country, the brand will move forward with some back-to-school marketing including a partnership with Scholastic, running promotions on larger bulk products, and ramping up its e-commerce business, said Caillate.
The brand will continue to adjust its marketing plan to respond to current consumer needs, which have been changing week to week, said Caillate.
“What we discovered through this pandemic is that communication and brand messaging had to be relevant with what was going on in the consumer’s life, and it couldn’t be planned a long time in advance,” said Caillate.