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Clark Miller, group product manager for Gerber Graduates, doesn't mind taking his work home with him.

Father of three toddlers, Mr. Miller has his very own test market. That's why Mr. Miller, 31, never doubted Gerber Graduates would be a success, despite critics' skepticism about the product when it was introduced nationally in July 1992.

"It's one of those products where if you don't have a kid in this age range, you would really think it is a stupid idea," Mr. Miller says.

Last year, Gerber Graduates' sales rose 41.1% to $47 million, claiming 6.3% of the $748.7 million baby food market. Gerber Products Co. holds 70% of the baby food market.

"You have to know your mother and your kid," Mr. Miller says. "Mothers find this product a godsend because it is nutritious and convenient."

Gerber used advertising and direct mail to build awareness of its new toddler food. But Mr. Miller enjoyed seeing the direct results of one of Gerber's more non-traditional marketing methods-grass-roots sampling.

When he traveled to the Denver area to a parenting fair, he says, "The doors opened and a sea of strollers came rolling in."

After that day at the fair, sales jumped 40% to 50% in that market, Mr. Miller says. And as a result: Gerber ran similar sampling programs throughout the country at parenting fairs and nursery schools.

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