Marketing 50

Annie's Homegrown

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Sarah Bird is working hard to sell healthy alternatives of some of America's mainstream kid favorites without the luxury of big-brand budgets.

The VP-marketing for Homegrown Naturals, whose "major growth engine" is a line of natural and organic macaroni and cheese dinners as well as newer snack products dubbed Annie's Homegrown, certainly understands the challenges of facing off against the likes of Kraft and Pepperidge Farm. After years with major food behemoths-first PepsiCo's Frito-Lay, then Nestle-the business-school educated marketer left for more entrepreneurial waters, joining PowerBar. Three years later, she joined Homegrown Naturals. And in the six years since her arrival, Annie's has grown to $45 million in sales, and continues to grow double digits.

The trick to building the lifestyle brand has been to "connect with consumers one on one" through event and guerrilla marketing as well as cause marketing (which appeals mightily to the upscale moms Annie's target). Focused on environmental, children's and women's issues, it offers annual scholarships and has developed a blog, among other efforts. "Our marketing activities try to connect and show there is consistency and truth to what we do," Ms. Bird, 44, says.

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