Breakfast of Champions: Cereal With a Sustainable Footprint

Natures Path bus photo

An awakening in every bite. That's one of the catchy slogans for the flagship cereal of Nature's Path Organic. Flax Plus Pumpkin Granola launched an amusing and effective campaign emphasizing a healthy dose of sustainability with a crunchier taste. But egg, a Seattle-based marketeer, incorporated a level of transparency - and humor - in the campaign to reach more discerning breakfast eaters. Will this health food company be gobbled up by corporate conglomerates that have snatched the likes of Kashi and Cascadian Farms?

Unlikely. Family-owned Nature's Path is fiercely independent. One ad maintains: "An organic cereal company can't solve climate change, but it can cause cereal change...We've found that social and environmental responsibility go particularly well with milk." (Perhaps that could also be serial change.)

"A sense of humor can help alleviate the cloying earnestness that has become a well-recognized signpost of greenwashing for wary consumers," says Marty McDonald, founder and creative director of egg which specializes in sustainable brands.

Apparently most consumers prefer the "natural" label, but Nature's Path also distinguishes its goods as 100 percent organic (not just natural), and promotes the sustainability of its business practices. To appeal to the discriminating green customer who wants to be assured it's not just good for the body -- it's good for the planet -- it has to standout among the cluttered and competitive shelves. Might this be the real purpose of truth in advertising?

While Froot Loops gets the controversial "Smart Label," despite its ingredients (Kellogg's, which also now owns Kashi, claims less sugar justifies that honor), there is a big difference between products at health food stores. Even libertarian John Mackey, founder and former CEO of Whole Foods, admits "We sell a bunch of junk."


Funky '70s-revival footprint logo to Get on Nature's Path

Egg's campaign highlights the idea that a company could and should also sell the higher calling of personal sustainability, making Nature's Path the mouthpiece for the cause and its organic cereal the portal. McDonald says research shows the core segment of the "conscious-consumer" is rapidly growing, amounting to a third of the population. His firm focuses on grabbing the attention of the segment whose purchases truly reflect their social and environmental values in an effort to drive change.

Hilary Bromberg, who heads Strategy and Research at egg, speaks of this outreach:

Consumers in this space want to be healthier, but they're also part of this bigger values-based movement that they aren't even necessarily aware of -- and yet, are craving. Helping them see how they are a part of something larger is a powerful idea. For our target audience -- intelligent, educated, questing, and inured to advertising as usual, we need to give them something real if we want to actually connect with them.

Eat well. Do good. The tagline for Nature's Path, reflects its mission not to use harmful pesticides or herbicides. After all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And reuse that waxy liner, too.

More on organic foods:
Does Organic Also Mean Sustainable or Just Non-Toxic?
Organic Farming Could Stop Global Climate Change
Are Lucky Charms Better for You Than Granola?

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