Jamba Juice is about to launch its largest marketing push yet, and it isn't for a core menu item -- it's for the kids' menu.
The chain earlier this year launched a kids' menu that includes four nine-ounce fruit and vegetable smoothies, meant to be paired with two food items developed specifically for kids': a Pizza Swirl with turkey or a Cheesy Stuffed Pretzel. Each pairing adds up to less than 500 calories, the company said.
For the first marketing effort for the kids' menu, Jamba Juice is pairing up with Walt Disney Co. as the fast-food and beverage promotional partner for its upcoming animated film "Planes," a spinoff from its "Cars" franchise. (Other promotional partners for "Planes" include American Airlines.)
The campaign, created by Jamba's agency, the Neighbor Agency, will launch July 30 and will run for six weeks. Elements of the campaign include a Facebook sweepstakes -- with a prize trip for 4, via American Airlines, to Los Angeles to tour the DisneyToon Studio -- in-store marketing, digital marketing and radio spots. Jamba earlier this year expanded its paid media outlay, advertising on radio for the first time in 25 markets.
James White, Jamba Juice's president-CEO, said that the kids' menu campaign is the "most comprehensive work we've done arguably on any platform," and that Jamba Juice paired with Disney for a movie promotion because the film is "kid friendly" and hit the kids' menu target audience -- though he noted much of the marketing, particularly the Facebook effort, is geared toward kids' parents. He also said that the company paired with Disney because it was among the first of the media companies to adopt nutritional guidelines for kids', which it did in 2006.
'Pent up demand'
But with so many kids' menus in fast food, why did Jamba Juice even launch one? Mr. White said that "there's been pent up demand from moms with kids." Jamba Juice's core audience, he said, is primarily health-conscious men and women ages 25 to 40 -- consumers who "care about what goes into their body but don't want to sacrifice on taste" -- many of which happen to have kids.
Kid-specific menu items outperformed overall food sales in full-service restaurants --12% for kids items, versus 1% growth overall -- during the first quarter, according to a study by GuestMetrics released in May. Although the study focused on full-service and not fast food restaurants, the study noted that sales of kids' menu items tend to increase in the summer.
Jamba Juice declined to provide specifics on marketing spend for the campaign, but Jamba Juice historically has spent little on measured media. In 2012, the chain spent about $3.6 million on U.S. measured media, up from $1.5 million the prior year.
The menu also comes as many fast food chains as well as packaged food companies have been under fire from critics for marketing what they call unhealthy meals to kids. McDonald's overhauled its Happy Meal items in 2011, and many other food companies have overhauled items aimed at kids to quell critics and consumer groups.
"A lot of the other folks are adding items defensively," said Mr. White. "For us, it's a white space opportunity" for the company to offer what customers have been requesting. "Kids have always been part of our user base, but now it's easy for kids to consume products that moms love."
He added that the smoothies aren't just smaller sizes of existing drinks, they were developed with kids in mind. He noted that like Jamba Juice's other products, there's no added sugar, and that each kids beverage has a full serving of fruit or vegetables and the food items have a full serving of whole grains.
Jamba Juice seems to know what the touchy issues in the industry are these days. Sugar is shaping up to be the next battleground in the food industry when it comes to health concerns, and consumer advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest in March released a study that said that 97% of kids meals offered at top U.S. restaurant chains do not meet its nutritional criteria. The only chain that offered kids meals that fit the standards was Subway, CSPI said. CSPI did not respond to a request for comment on whether Jamba Juice's meals fit its criteria.
Jamba Juice in May 2012 said it was working to promote healthy lifestyles and fight obesity by launching the Healthy Living Council, a cohort of nutritionists and dietary experts that work with Jamba to create educational material, content for Jamba Juice's website, among other things. The council consulted Jamba Juice as it developed the new kids' menu, and will work with Jamba Juice as it developes school nutrition initiatives.
Jamba Juice is the 77th largest chain in the U.S. by systemwide sales. In 2012, the company brought in about $500.1 million in U.S. sales, up 4.8%, according to Technomic. As of April, Jamba Juice had nearly 770 locations globally.