Annie's Homegrown has a new headquarters in Berkeley, Calif., in the old headquarters of another better-for-you food brand, Clif Bar. But fresh off its successful IPO, the organic-foods pioneer is more concerned about another type of real estate: shelf space at mainstream supermarkets.
Although Annie's grew to as $135-million company mainly by plying its trademark all-natural and organic macaroni-and-cheese and fruit Bunny snacks at the likes of Whole Foods Markets and other natural-food stores, CEO John Foraker believes that Annie's can be instrumental in making such fare generally appealing to U.S. consumers.
"Despite the fact they've been sold for decades, people keep calling them a fad," he told CPGmatters.com. "And just now, big retailers in the United States are beginning to understand how important natural and organic is for the consumer — and we believe we're closer to the beginning of that phenomenon than the end."
To that end, Annie's has been trying to satisfy the interest of more conventional supermarket chains and other food purveyors who want "to put organic products in the meainstream aisle across from the strongest [regular] brands." So Annie's Homegrown fare now is available in Target, Safeway and Kroger stores, among others.
In the meantime, Annie's has been expanding its product lineup — a gluten-free lineup and an organic pizza-flavored, Chex-style snack mix are among the latest new items — and doing some ambitious online and digital marketing.
Of course, better-for-you brands tend to succeed more than regular CPG brands online because they tend to have more passionate followings. And Annie's is tapping into that advantage with a strong presence on Facebook, photos of its products on Instagram, a Pinterest presence with recipes and recycling messages, and a Twitter account where one recent string of activity was to encourage kids to start school gardens under the company's Growing Goodness contest.
Price premiums for organic fare over regular foods, including Annie's, remain high — up to about 50 percent for U.S.-government "certified organic" items and up to 30 percent for lower-organic-content "made with" products, Foraker said.
"Most products we've introduced [lately] have been certified organic," he said. "We've gotten bigger and better at formulating and sourcing ingredients that allow us to accomplish what we want in terms of positioning [the brand], and that's a great place to be."