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    Annie’s Hops on ‘Year of the Rabbit’ Bandwagon

    Product rollouts, ingredient reformulations and “real food” initiatives are on the agenda.

    With the Chinese Year of the Rabbit nearly here – a period said to usher in calm, thoughtfulness, giving and persistence – natural and organic food manufacturer Annie's Homegrown and its kid-friendly bunny mascot, Bernie, are gearing up for a twelvemonth packed with product introductions, ingredient reformulations, initiatives to encourage families to dig into “real food,” and a corporate headquarters relocation.

    "As Annie's moves into the Year of the Rabbit, we're thinking about how we can continue nourishing busy families who crave convenient, delicious food made with real ingredients," said John Foraker, CEO of Napa, Calif.-based Annie’s. "We are energized by continually evolving our company to meet the needs of our consumers. We constantly push ourselves to improve our products, programs and positive impact on our world, and look forward to reaching even more families in 2011."

    To that end, the company will expand its snack and pasta offerings as well as entering new product categories in 2011. Among the first of these rollouts is a line of Organic Granola Bars in Peanutty, Chocolate Chipper and Berry Berry varieties arriving in stores across the country this month. Organic Pretzel Bunnies in Original, Honey Wheat and Spelt varieties are also due at retail early this winter, while Gingersnap and SnickerDoodle Gluten Free Bunny Cookies, coming next month, offer sweet relief for those on gluten-free diets.

    Improvements to existing items include reducing sodium in products by another 15 percent over the next five years, using only rBST-free milk ingredients, the presence of cocoa in chocolate cookies and cereal, and making more organic products.

    To support the upcoming generation of organic farmers, Annie's will award $75,000 in Sustainable Agriculture Scholarship funds in 2011. Since the scholarship program began in 2000, the company has contributed more than $300,000 in scholarships to students of organic agriculture and environmental sciences.

    Annie’s will additionally increase its efforts to introduce kids to the origins of food. The company’s “Root 4 Kids” program has the goal of getting 1 million kids across the United States to dig and plant new vegetables. Since its September 2010 launch, more than 70,000 families have joined up. Further, 150 school gardens will be funded this year through Annie's “Grants for Gardens” program, enabling more kids direct access to their vegetables.

    The growing company is making improvements closer to home, by moving its corporate headquarters to Berkeley, Calif., this spring, to a site currently undergoing renovation to meet LEED certification standards. The overhauled offices will feature reclaimed furniture, natural light and eco-friendly touches throughout, in addition to a parking lot converted into a green space with organic garden beds.

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