The moms at Mann’s are giving birth to a brand new product.
The women majority-certified company based in Salinas, Calif., is rolling out Veggie Mac-n-Cheese nationwide, with plans to expand it into Canada. It’s a new concept for the category and for the company, driven in no small part by Mann’s “moms marketing to moms” philosophy.
Owned by two families, the company’s shareholders are 65 percent women. CEO and Chairman of the Board Lorri Koster is a mom who knows what it’s like to come home at the end of a long day and want to get a quick, healthy dinner on the table – the healthy being as important as the quick, she said.
“We’re tired of feeding broccoli to the dog under the table,” Koster said.
According to Lori Taylor, who blogs as The Produce Mom for Indianapolis Fruit Co., that won’t happen with any of the four Veggie Mac-n-Cheese varieties Mann has developed. Her kids are quick to shun broccoli, she said, but that didn’t happen with these products.
There are four flavors: Broccoli with Classic Cheddar, Broccoli with Bacon Cheddar, Broccoli Cauliflower with Fiesta Cheddar and Broccoli, Cauliflower and Carrots with White Cheddar. Each is 55 percent fresh vegetables, 25 percent Sargento Cheese sauce and 20 percent cooked noodles. Mann’s is recommending display in the fresh-cut section of the produce department.
Microwave preparation means the dish is ready in minutes; preparation takes a little longer on the stove. Suggested retail price is $4.99 for the 20-oz. package that Taylor said was more than enough to serve her family of four. All come in a standup bag that offers plenty of real estate for graphics aimed directly at the consumer.
“We’ve got two seconds to capture that consumer,” Koster said. “By putting a kid on the package, it screams, ‘Mom, look at me.’”
The new products, which have a 16-day shelf life, are being produced at Mann’s Salinas processing facility and at a satellite operation in New Jersey.
“It fits right in with our current lineup,” Koster said. “Same shelf life. Same equipment, with modifications.”
Koster said the product is the result of a team effort that included research and development director Rachael Hackbarth, hired in 2010 to focus on new product development.
“We’ve been working on it for about nine months, looking at different ideas,” said Christine Keller, director of marketing and innovation. “We really locked in on the fact that moms have this great need to get vegetables into their kids.”
And Taylor said they succeeded. Her boys loved all of the products. While she did, too, she also really liked the convenience.
“You literally open the bag, put all contents in a large bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a towel and microwave it for four minutes,” she said. “From prep to dinner table, you’re talking five minutes max.”
Taylor also reduced the cooking time slightly so that the fresh vegetables were crisper. To round out the meal, she added a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store deli.
“It was very satisfying for all of us and I felt accomplished with serving such a wholesome and healthy meal to my family,” she said.
Produce industry consultant Jeffrey S. Brandenburg of the JSB Group said products like this new line from Mann’s are big in the United Kingdom, where they usually come mixed together, with a very short shelf life. With smaller geography and consumers’ tendencies to shop more frequently, that approach works there, he said.
In the United States, packaging that addresses the different needs of the individual contents, as Mann’s has here, is the key to expansion in similar products.
“Do I see it growing?” he said. “Yeah, I do.”