Beech-Nut Takes on Gerber With Let’s Grow! Line

Baby food manufacturer Beech-Nut is going head-to-head with Gerber’s Graduates in the toddler food category by introducing a new line of all-natural products called Let’s Grow!

The lineup includes “innovative and nutritious” toddler food, said Steve Hungsberg, associate marketing director at the Swiss-owned consumer goods company. (Beech-Nut is a division of the Hero group.) While not organic, the toddler products don’t contain unnecessary sugars or sodium, Hungsberg said. Let’s Grow! will be available starting next week and packaging will carry a “No Junk Promise” logo.

The product launch is part of Beech-Nut’s overall strategy to target parents who leave the category due to the lack of nutritious toddler food options on store shelves, per the company. Research conducted by Beech-Nut and IRI showed that only 20% of households with children are still buying toddler food by the time a child turns 2.

Print ads for Let’s Grow! will run in leading parenting publications. TV, direct mail and couponing also support. All branding will reinforce the “no junk” guarantee. Palio, Saratoga, New York, handles.

Out of the 19 Let’s Grow! products being introduced, some are brand new to the category, Hungsberg said. They include whole grain yogurt nibbles, seven-grain nibbles and a toddler cereal with an easy-pour box. Hungsberg did not disclose cost of the campaign, but said it is the biggest launch in the brand’s 117-year history. Beech-Nut spent $4.8 million advertising its baby food line in the U.S. last year, and $2.3 million through June, excluding online, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Keith-Thomas Ayoob, associate professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, said Beech-Nut with its “No Junk Promise” could capture a niche that until now, was mostly untapped.

“Parents just want to do the right thing when it comes to feeding their children, but they [also] want the reassurance that what they’re giving them is really good,” Ayoob said. “The more confusing the label, the less likely parents are going to look at it twice.”

In April, baby food giant Gerber was hit with a lawsuit alleging that the Nestle AG-owned division did not use real fruit juice in its Fruit Juice Snacks for toddlers. The suit