Inside the Mix

Growing up in the '70s, an enduring memory of what my parents deemed to be a healthy meal for their child invariably involves meat derived from the less-popular areas of whichever animal it had previously belonged to.

Growing up in the '70s, an enduring memory of what my parents deemed to be a healthy meal for their child invariably involves meat derived from the less-popular areas of whichever animal it had previously belonged to.

It was cheap, easy, and full of iron and vitamins and all kinds of other things that I didn't have the least bit of interest in.

While there has been much said about the fact that far too many kids these days have a solid diet of fast food, today's kids are apparently a lot more health conscious than many people would give them credit for. Recent data from research firm Yankelovich showed that 62% of 6- to 11-year-olds, when asked what they looked for in a snack, said it had to be healthy. (Of course, when you look at a demographic whose younger end probably recently thought that eating worms was healthy, one has to be circumspect about what their definition of "healthy" actually is.)

Regardless, the pressure is undeniably on moms to keep the family healthy, as it's always been. But when so many moms are juggling work schedules with family ones, it's easier to reach into the freezer for something instant, rather than cook a nutritious meal from scratch.

Which is exactly the principle on which the company Dream Dinners is marketing itself. Busy mothers, which make up the vast majority of Dream Dinners' customers, go once a month or so to prepare 12 meals that feed a whole family, then take them home and put them in the freezer. They get to hang out with their friends, maybe brag about the latest school report or blow off steam by not talking about kids and family at all, and their families get a nutritious meal. Dream Dinners' goal is to get a nutritious family meal on the table three nights a week.

Sometimes a company comes along that so sweetly taps into a niche that was created by a developing trend in the direction a section of the populace is heading. As it turns out, Dream Dinners wasn't founded on the basis of extensive market research and identifying the plight of the busy, yet health-conscious mom; it was founded by the demand of the friends-of-friends who'd heard about a kind of take-out supper club that the cofounder set up - which now has around 90 franchise locations, existing or about to launch, across the US. But the operation's success proves how valuable it is for working moms to be able to find time for health and family values - and if they can talk to friends while doing it, that's even better.

Since Dream Dinners' 2002 launch, a handful of competitors have sprung up. Super Suppers is one, and has, in fact, outpaced the original. Super Suppers' sales director had previously been involved with establishing the Curves franchise, another community-based, health-based business designed for busy women. Says Jill McDonough, a GM in Edelman's consumer group who specializes in food, we've gone from knitting bees to meal-prep bees and even exercise bees. While all these franchises continue to grow, it's clear that this is a consistently reliable way to appeal to busy, responsible, working moms - and that's something for which many marketers have spent a long time trying to perfect the recipe.

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