This is the story of how Ellun Kanat and Pohjolan Peruna created Rooty – the Kind Side, an appealing brand that directly confronts consumers’ anxieties in an increasingly disruptive world. We tackled the pain points of the food industry while stirring organisational change in our client.
The food industry is a locomotive of altering desires and one of the rare few domains where everyone is a potential customer. Today, a growing number of consumers look to diversify their meals with versatile, easy and healthy ingredients. More people are also ready to pay a premium for local quality.
On top of all this, a small carbon footprint is more important now than ever.
In 2019, Pohjolan Peruna decided that the time was ripe for a new side ingredient – one that would be kind to both people and the planet. Pohjolan Peruna came out with potato-based noodles, which were more eco-efficient to produce than wheat noodles and super easy to prepare.
Before we came along, Pohjolan Peruna had been a one-trick pony with their iconic Grandma brand “Mummon”, which had catered to Finnish desires well. However, Grandma seemed too traditional to offer anything interesting to the younger, change-hungry generation. Although the company offered stellar solutions to many pain points in the food industry, people weren’t buying their new products.
It’s important to know that Finns have a weirdly intimate relationship with potatoes. They’re sort of a national treasure. Potatoes have gotten us through some really cold winters, and they’re one of the few things we can grow in our stark soil.
So Pohjolan Peruna approached Ellun Kanat with a simple question: why aren’t our potato noodles selling? We quickly found that Pohjolan Peruna had the right product, but their story was off. They needed to establish a new brand within their portfolio, and we were going to figure out exactly how to do it.
Background research showed us that consumers look to make statements with what they buy, and traditional values weren’t fit for selling innovative foods. This discovery became the backbone of our strategy, so we kept digging.
Further research uncovered three relevant issues that young consumers are concerned about:
At this point, we came up with the brand core. We would create a side dish that’s kind to the environment and to the consumer. In addition to having a small carbon footprint, the product should be healthy and easy to prepare.
Once we knew what our customers wanted in a brand, we started looking at the competition. We found that if there ever was a homogenic product range, it was the frozen potato display in a Finnish grocery store. We also vetted the Swedish market, because our client indicated an interest to expand abroad, and the neighbors were no better off. None of the competitors tried to stand out, and there was definitely room for improvement. This is where we decided the brand name would be in English, but should also fit the Finnish idiolect.
As luck would have it, we already had a competitive edge: we weren’t selling potatoes. A key innovation was to lose the potato prefix and call the product pan-noodles. In Finnish vernacular, calling a dish pan-something immediately makes it sound easier and faster – as unwitty as it sounds.
It took us a while to find common ground with our client. They were slightly resistant to some proposed changes, like the new brand, its English name, and the strong climate focus. But it was a mutual learning journey. We got valuable takeaways from seasoned grocery professionals, and they gained fresh insights from informed outsiders.
The brand was coined Rooty – The Kind Side. Rooty’s narrative was to give consumers the freedom to focus on the main ingredients in meals while subtly saving the planet on the side. By giving consumers a chance to buy food with a clear conscience, we would all enable responsible consumption together. The concept worked so well that we expanded it from noodles to rice substitutes – the new pan bits create 30 times less carbon emissions than rice.
A month into the launch, consumer surveys showed that Rooty had reached all the objectives established at the outset, with an overwhelming majority of respondents describing Rooty as environmentally friendly, easy to prepare, attractive and lucrative.
In the first three months, the previous year’s sales were multiplied by 50. The 4900 % increase amid the pandemic encouraged Pohjolan Peruna to export the products across the Nordics and to other foreign markets such as China.
Our favourite part? The large grocery chains characterised Rooty as “new and interesting”, although the same products had already been in their stores for over a year.
The Rooty brand won first prize at the Award Nordics competition in the category of Best strategic or creative development of a new brand. Read more about it here.