How an 89-Year-Old Company ‘Changed Everything’ to Target Millennials

In 2007, when food giant Nestlé purchased Gerber for $5.5 billion, the company controlled 81% of the US baby food market. Founded in 1928, Gerber essentially created the market when Dorothy and Dan Gerber developed a process for mass producing strained peas at the family’s canning company.

But just a decade after its purchase by Nestle, Gerber’s market share has fallen to about 60%. Startup brands like Plum Organics and Ella’s Kitchen, now both owned by larger Gerber competitors, have gained market share by promoting healthy and organic offerings. What’s more, the amount of baby food sold has declined, as more and more parents prepare their own pureed foods at home, thanks to new devices that make it easier than ever to do so. 

In response to these trends, Gerber decided to undertake a two-year, comprehensive brand overhaul. "It's not like launching a campaign that normally takes us three months to do,” Alberto Hernandez, Gerber’s VP of integrated communications, told Ad Age. “This is basically about changing everything we do."

Millennial moms now account for 82% of US births, and more than 40% of millennials identify as parents. The Gerber relaunch, rolled out last month under the tagline “Anything for Baby,” is aimed squarely at them. "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."

Gerber was already in line with many of the priorities of millennial parents, they just weren’t marketed that way. For example, the company has always used non-GMO fruits and vegetables for its purees, but they kept that fact hidden on the back of packaging. Now their packaging highlights that on the front. Gerber also failed to market their direct relationships with farmers, but now boasts of their “from farm to highchair” sourcing that ensures “you’re giving your lil’ one the good stuff.” Their new labels also include “How2Recycle” instructions, and their advertising is more prominently promoting their organic offerings and non-traditional flavors, like acai and kale.

In response to the millennial appetite for digital parenting information, Gerber introduced Dotti, a “Personal Baby Expert” who provides parenting advice to MyGerber members via text. (The experts who provide the advice include a lactation consultant and registered dieticians.) The new Gerber packaging also includes QR codes that parents can scan for tips on things like spoon feeding, and their website features resources on everything from breast feeding to picky eating.

Gerber is just one example of a host of brands that are shifting their sales and marketing strategies to focus on millennial parents (or, as The New York Times dubbed them earlier this month, “parennials”). Even millennials who are not yet parents are settling down in other ways, through pet ownership, home improvement, cooking, and more.

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