KidZania has already tapped into 35 million visitors and counting worldwide
Engaging with the next generation of fresh produce consumers whether to increase consumption or attract them into the industry is a constant challenge for most companies in the sector. Produce Business UK catches up with drinks brand Innocent to find out about its latest endeavour in this direction
When global family educational entertainment franchisor KidZania announced it was opening its pioneering children’s role-play concept at the Westfield London shopping centre down the road from Innocent’s Fruit Towers in west London, the opportunity was too good to miss for the marketing team at the iconic smoothie company.
KidZania is the brainchild of Mexican businessman Xavier López Ancona who established the first KidZania – a child-size city for youngsters aged four to 14 packed with real-life role-play adventures – in Mexico City 16 years ago.
Under the vision statement “to ignite the hearts and minds of kids everywhere by empowering them to make the world a better place” KidZania now operates in 18 locations worldwide, most with franchisees and its clever concept of brand partnership.
In the UK, López is working with Longshot headed by Joel Cadbury and Ollie Vigors as the franchisee. Former club and restaurant operator Cadbury is well known for his entrepreneurial and philanthropic work after promoting social entrepreneurship in India and improving maths attainment among UK schoolchildren, in addition to other projects. The ‘edu-tainment’ concept of KidZania is therefore a good fit.
The brand partnership element allows KidZania to offer realistic role-play opportunities for youngsters, whilst also securing investment from global and local brands. For example, British Airways is one of the London partners so when youngsters arrive at the centre they ‘check-in’ via the airport check-in desk. Once inside, they also have the opportunity to dress up in authentic scaled down versions of BA pilot and cabin crew uniforms and play their roles at the Aviation Academy in a section of a genuine Airbus A319.
Innocent is another of the London partners and its “establishment” – to use KidZania parlance – at the London site is in the form of a mini Innocent kitchen, or smoothie factory, complete with real bananas, pineapples and mangoes.
Clemmie Nettlefold, Innocent’s UK PR manager explains: “The Innocent kitchen is all about getting children to understand the ingredients; to smell and taste the fruit and to understand where it comes from – as provenance is very important to us. There is a large world map where children can pull fruit out from the behind the source countries. It also shows how we transport the fruit sustainably.
“The navigator at the establishment chops the fruit and the children get to taste it. They then move into the factory area of the establishment to make their own smoothies.” Here they also learn about pasteurisation hands-on, feed materials into a packaging machine and drink their own smoothies at the end.
The establishment also displays Five Steps to Sustainability to help children understand about waste, recycling and healthy eating.
The experience youngsters enjoy at the Innocent establishment is one of 60 different professions they can try out at the London centre, which covers a massive 75,000ft2 spread over two floors.
Part of the partnership contract agreement means that brands are not allowed to disclose the nature of their investment, but the fact that the centre cost some £20 million to build gives an indication of the level of funds involved.
But is it worth it? Innocent’s Nettlefold is clear that because of the company’s west-London roots, it was keen to get involved. “We have a real affinity with the area,” she explains. “And we think it is also an amazing way to help kids understand more not just about fruit, but also about how our smoothies are made and the way we do things. That way, with all the debate about sugar in drinks, they can see that we don’t add anything to our products. It is also important to us to be talking about sustainability and our whole ethos that we leave the world a better place than we find it.”
Tickets for a four-hour session at KidZania cost £28 per child but – in line with Cadbury’s philanthropic stance – there are all sorts of discounted opportunities for local schools and other groups.
Innocent started working on the concept with KidZania a year before the centre opened in June. The drinks company has had three to four people involved since its establishment has been designed by the drinks brand’s own in-house creative team. “It has to feel like a real Innocent factory,” says Nettlefold. “It has to be authentic.”
Return on investment
Now KidZania is open, that doesn’t mean Innocent’s involvement ends there. “We’ll be popping in regularly and we’re always thinking about ways to improve the kids’ experience in the Innocent kitchen.
“We’ve also worked really closely with the navigators to make sure they understand all about Innocent and the way we do things, so we’re really confident in handing over the day-to-day running to them.
“The Innocent products team has also worked with the team at KidZania to make sure it only sources the best-tasting fruit for the Innocent kitchen.”
The success of this venture and the return on investment will be hard to measure, but there are other benefits too. “We’re not measuring our involvement with KidZania directly,” says Nettlefold. “But we hope to raise our brand awareness amongst mums and kids, which we’ll be able to check via the number of people coming through our Innocent kitchen, associated press and amplification as well as customer feedback.
“We won’t measure the direct impact of this activity on brand love, but we hope it will drive up love as part of our wider marketing plan.”