Dec 02, 2015 • By

Annie’s coming soon to schools

For years, Annie’s has sought to enter the U.S. K-12 school market. But the company found it difficult to establish sales connections with food service directors, develop a deep understanding of the school market and gather resources to reformulate products to meet the USDA’s nutritional guidelines for schools.

That all changed when Annie’s became part of the General Mills family last year.

So, beginning in January, the brand behind Bernie the Bunny will debut in schools with two varieties of its reformulated Bunny Grahams snack crackers.

“The shifting food landscape is happening beyond the grocery stores and home,” says John Foraker, president of Annie’s. “Annie’s is just as passionate as parents and education workers are about having clean food options at school. The opportunity to offer our great tasting, organic, kid and parent approved snacks in the cafeteria is just one way we are trying to reinforce our mission to spread goodness.”Annies-Bunny-Grahams“We’re excited to have Organic Honey Bunny Grahams and Friends Bunny Grahams in schools,” says Sarah Raney, an Annie’s marketing associate. “We think Annie’s can boost the quality of school nutrition with a snack that has a clean label and is made with simple ingredients.”

Once General Mills acquired Annie’s last fall, the two companies sought to grow the Annie’s portfolio into new channels and food categories. Annie’s entered the soup category and traditional cookie category in July. And early next year, Annie’s plans to introduce an organic yogurt.

Within months of the acquisition, teams from Annie’s and General Mills worked to get Annie’s inside U.S. schools – a channel where our Convenience & Foodservice (C&F) team has excelled.

Well in advance of when the stricter nutritional rules when into effect in the 2013-14 school year, the C&F team had converted its existing K-12 food products to meet the USDA’s nutritional guidelines that require more whole grains, less fat, sugar and sodium, and fewer calories, says Lynn Choi Perrin, a senior food scientist.

“What we accomplished became a huge advantage for us in the K-12 channel,” Lynn says.

General Mills then shared that knowledge with the Annie’s team, which chose its popular Honey Bunny Grahams and Friends Bunny Grahams to become the brand’s first products in schools. Both varieties will be available in single serve 1.25 ounce snack pouches.Annies-Bunny-GrahamsC&F already had a similar product in schools: Nature Valley Crisps, a cookie-like biscuit with 16 grams of whole grain per serving.

“We shared with the Annie’s team the formulas from our existing K-12 products to give them a sense in how to achieve the USDA’s whole grain requirement,” says Lynn.

As a result, Annie’s doubled the amount of whole grain in each pouch of Bunny Grahams so that it reached 16 grams per serving.

Joselynne Fynboh, a marketing manager in C&F, says having Bunny Grahams available in schools represents a win for General Mills, Annie’s and K-12 food service operators.

“We understand that food service operators can increase perception of the menu by adding trusted brands such as Nature Valley and Annie’s,” says Joselynne. “This will help them achieve their goal of increasing lunch participation.”

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