Gerber wants parents to know it's come a long way, baby.
The 89-year-old brand, which has been losing share to upstart brands, is unveiling an overhaul of its packaging, advertising, flavors, and personalized parental advice. There's also a new tagline, "Anything for Baby" and a focus on not-the-usual flavors, like acai and kale.
Gerber has even updated its logo for the first time since 2006, but that shift is a lot more subtle, as Gerber tries to strike the right balance between its brand heritage and its more modern cues. So for its updated look, Gerber went back to its original Gerber baby sketch from 1928. Now, the baby's head pops out of a blue circle.
Gerber's transformation took two years from "soul searching" to execution, says Alberto Hernandez, VP of integrated consumer communications. "It's not like launching a campaign that normally takes us three months to do. This is basically about changing everything we do."
Gerber remains the U.S. market leader in baby food but faces increased pressure from disruptive organic and clean-label brands. And as parent company Nestle saw weaker performance, a comprehensive relaunch was planned.
"You don't stay a category leader unless you're continuing to evolve with your consumers," says Gerber Chief Marketing Officer Aileen Stocks. "We know that the needs and priorities of today's parents have changed."
Many consumers were surprised to learn Gerber has made some organic baby food since the 1990s, always used non-GMO fruits and vegetables in its purees, and has direct relationships with farmers, the company said. Gerber didn't do much to emphasize any of that in its marketing before now.
The overhaul is meant to speak to today's parents, specifically millennials, says Stocks, who quickly adds "we absolutely have our eye toward Generation Z."
And competition, particularly in organic fare, has gotten fierce. Organic baby food brand Earth's Best began in 1985 and Ella's Kitchen began in 2006. Both were gobbled up by Hain Celestial Group. Plum Organics started in 2007 and was acquired by Campbell Soup Co. in 2013. Happy Baby, which touts that it launched on Mother's Day 2006, later became Happy Family as it expanded beyond baby food. There's also Sprout, which launched in 2008. There's even Yumi, an organic baby food delivery service that debuted in June.
Gerber's share of the $7 billion U.S. baby food market is poised to slip to 23.5 percent this year from 24.1 percent in 2016, according to Euromonitor International, which includes formula, prepared, dried and other baby food in the category. Some marketers on the rise include Earth's Best, expected to increase to a 6.2 percent share, and Plum, expected to rise to a 2.2 percent share, according to Euromonitor.
The non-GMO origin of Gerber's fruit and vegetable purees used to be almost hidden on the back of packs. Now, it's highlighted on the front and Gerber is making some of its other products, such as snacks, with non-GMO ingredients. It also has more flavors with a culinary edge.
"When you hear acai or kale, you don't think Gerber," says Sandy Greenberg, co-founder of Terri & Sandy, which created the "Anything for Baby" campaign. "In the past maybe those flavors wouldn't have made it into the advertising because those flavors really only appealed to a small segment of the population. But now we're leading with them."
Terri & Sandy has worked on the brand for about five years and Greenberg and co-founder Terri Meyer have an even longer history with Gerber as they worked on the account for a decade at FCB.
A new commercial is set to run online starting Wednesday and head to TV on Oct. 23.
Of course, others are promoting their own efforts. Plum, which led the baby food pouch revolution, introduced Baby Bowls, a line in recyclable plastic dishes it says are easier for parents to hold during spoon feeding, with 10 flavors including pumpkin, banana, papaya & cardamom.
Gerber founder Dorothy Gerber wrote letters to parents who reached out to her for advice. So now Gerber has Dotti, a coaching service parents can connect with via text to get answers from experts including a lactation consultant and registered dietitians.
Nestle's U.S. media spending on Gerber fell 10.9 percent to nearly $76 million in 2016, according to Ad Age Datacenter. Working media spending should rise as it invests in areas including TV, its website, programmatic, and social, particularly in 2018. "We're bringing our A game," says Hernandez.
Agencies on the effort include creative agency Terri & Sandy, digital creative agency Ogilvy & Mather, Hornall Anderson on packaging and logo design, MetaVision on media and Match MG / Catapult on retail redesign.