The Real Reason Kid's Lunchables Are So Popular

In 1985, Oscar Myer was looking for a way to reposition its meats which were declining in popularity and sales.  Bob Drane, the company's vice president, was given the task to "contemporize what we've got." 

He assembled a team of 15 people with varied skills, from design to food science to advertising, to create something completely new — a convenient, prepackaged lunch for kids.

After sifting through a host of failures, the model they fell back on was the American TV dinner — and after some brainstorming about names (Lunch Kits? Go-Packs? Fun Mealz?), Lunchables were born.

The trays flew off the grocery-store shelves.  Sales hit a phenomenal $218 million in the first 12 months.  Annual sales kept climbing, past $500 million, past $800 million; at last count, including sales in Britain, they were approaching the $1 billion mark. 

The early Lunchables campaign targeted mothers.  They might be too distracted by work to make a lunch, but they loved their kids enough to offer them this prepackaged gift.  

But soon the focus swung toward the kids.  Saturday-morning cartoons started carrying an ad that offered a different message: “All day, you gotta do what they say,” the ads said. “But lunchtime is all yours.”

This idea — that kids are in control — would become a key concept in the evolving marketing campaigns for the trays.  In what would prove to be their greatest achievement of all, the Lunchables team would delve into adolescent psychology to discover that it wasn’t the food in the trays that excited the kids; it was the feeling of power it brought to their lives. 

As C.E.O. Bob Eckert put it, “Lunchables aren’t about lunch.  It’s about kids being able to put together what they want to eat, anytime, anywhere.”

There's a valuable lesson for children's ministry in this.   
Kids love to be able to make choices.  Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach to learning, give them options.  When you place the power of choice in their hands, you will see significant engagement. 

What other lessons do you think we can learn from the success of Lunchables with kids?  Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.