Have you ever played hide and seek with veggies? If you’ve ever fed a toddler, chances are you have. Changing the “yuckies” to the “yummies” is no easy task. Most of us living in the Pinterest world with kids are searching topics like “picky eaters” and “hiding vegetables in kid food”. If you’re like me, you find an awesome recipe and think “I can totally do this and my kids are gonna love it!” You go to the local small town grocery store and they look at you sideways when you ask for TVP (textured vegetable protein), ground flax meal or coconut flour. So you end up making something like black bean brownies or kale chips and get a “This tastes like card board!” or “Are you kidding me? These are not chips!!!”
In comes Hidden Garden Foods. This is a fairly young company, started by a Mom who I’m thinking had a similar experience to the above paragraph. They make cookies from vegetables, brilliant! They currently have 4 flavours: Chocolate Chip made with pumpkin, Ginger Snap made with butternut squash, Red Velvet made with beets and Cocoa Cherry made with spinach. All gluten free and nut free with no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives.
When I contacted Hidden Garden Foods to comment on how they are currently using social media to promote customer engagement in product development, their response was: “Thanks for getting in touch with us. We’re still learning the ropes of social media so I’m not sure we’re the best example of using it the most effectively…” My first reaction was to move onto a different company but a casually worded, engaging Facebook post and the kind, open and honest response to my inquiry kept me thinking this is exactly the right company to write this blog about. Hidden Garden Foods is already using their established social media network to work through the four main steps of customer involvement management: idea generation, idea screening, concept development/testing and marketing/ distribution.
The first visit to their Facebook page revealed the perfect example of idea generation through crowdsourcing (obtaining information or input about a task or project by enlisting help of a group of people usually from the internet). This was evident in the following post: “We’re always working on new products over here so we ‘gotta ask: what kind of sneaky veggie products would you like to see from us?” Go figure, two customer responses did include kale! As you scroll down the Facebook page and Twitter feeds, it is evident that this is a company that monitors their social network and has an awareness of customer needs. Posts about community events, fundraisers, business partnerships and helpful tips and recipes all help them gain followers with the characteristics of current and potential customers.
This all contributes to the next step which involves idea screening. This group of loyal followers can be tapped into for idea screening. Once ideas have been narrowed down, consumers can be given choices about what products they would like to see next. More importantly, what products they would be most likely to buy next. Here it is important to ask questions that separate the trends from what consumers will actually purchase. For example, feeding my kids kale might sound like a great idea because it’s a hot ingredient right now but there may be something about the taste or texture that is not appealing to kids.
Hidden Garden Foods already frequently uses their social media presence to gain insight into the third step: concept development and testing. In both their Twitter and Facebook feeds, they regularly invite customers to review and provide feedback about their current products. Here, customers have already freely commented on packaging style, shipping preferences and requested more product transparency by suggesting the nutrition labels be posted online. One of the things that really stood out, was the number of personal blogs and You Tube videos Hidden Valley Foods shares on Facebook and re-tweets on Twitter. They obviously take the time to carefully read, view videos and reflect on what the public is saying about their product. This is evident by the thoughtful and kind responses to each one even if the feedback is not entirely positive (though this is rare). Incentives are also often used to gather feedback such as free samples and consumers are openly invited to share their product experience.
Marketing and distribution is currently largely covered in the Hidden Garden Foods website. Here, information is current, clear and easy to find. Linking back to this site along the product development process will be key at providing consumers with the background product knowledge to make informed suggestions about future products and promoting the products that are already for sale. Evidence of follow up and follow through is the first thing you see when you land on the Social tab of their website: “We love hearing your stories of discovering Hidden Garden Cookies. Why not follow us to keep up on all the latest products? You can follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook!”
Lessons for Others
Hidden Garden Foods is already working with customers throughout the whole product development process from early to late. The potential to expand on this, not only lies in their already established social media network but also in the networks of companies selling similar products. Hidden Garden Foods seems to understand that more and more customers don’t just want to buy/receive products but now expect to participate in the product development process too. I know my next shopping list will have veggie cookies on it instead of hard to find ingredients that I still have to put together and bake. I have already sourced out the closest store that carries them and you can too! Where do I find Hidden Garden Cookies?
Hidden Garden Foods
Name of Organization Contact: Catherine Anderson, CEO
Authored by: Orecia Reilly
If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.
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