Yummy United is perhaps the only company in the world run by kids. The company produces food products for children, created in accordance with children’s ideas and in close cooperation with children. The idea to involve kids in the development process belongs to the Mildberry founder Oleg Beriev and an expert in food production technologies Roman Glebov, while the Mildberry brand agency made it happen.
How does it work?
The core of the company is a unique format of interaction with the target audience – a permanent and a permanent Kid’s Board of Directors , that is re-elected three times a year . Children play directors, and the company creates all the necessary conditions to make the game as authentic as possible. Each director has a set of business cards, a mobile tablet with pre-downloaded programs for interaction. Children participate in the weekly Board meetings , where they listen to employees’ reports and discuss company goals.
Playing the role of directors, children offer ideas for products, tastes, designs and communications, have discussions with adult company specialists, give advice and recommendations, and also choose the solutions that the company implements. Children are actively involved in the life of the company and everything that is produced by the company is created by them or with their active participation.
Challenging digital kids
The target audience of the brand are children ages 8 to 12. Traditionally, children’s marketing focuses on the age segments of 0-3 and 3-8, where in fact it is the parent that exclusively makes the product choices.Marketing for children has really always been adult marketing: yes, brands appeal to children, but the main communication is directed at the parents.
Between the ages of 8 and 12, children undergo significant changes. Firstly, they mature quickly due to the influence of the school and the changing social environment in which they spend their time. The child develops as a person, in search of who they are, comes in conflict with the outside world. Parents lose influence, in favor of friends, classmates, leaders of children’s public opinion. Marketers could understand this audience, find ways to interact, but effective communication channels have never been built with children. There are ways to communicate with parents, but parents lose influence with kids of this age, the school is closed off to communication, traditional media does not provide an opportunity to interact. And only in the last few years, children’s content and interaction channels have received a boost, thanks to the fact that parents actively update their mobile devices, giving outdated gadgets to children. That is how the children got their means of communication.
How did it all begin?
Yummy United’s business idea is to create a commercial ecosystem around children ages 8-12 and its key insights: the desire to be responsible for themselves and their environment, so that children are treated like adults.
Yummy United (YU) is created as a marketing platform that provides interaction with an audience ages 8-12, which translates into various products and content created in cooperation with children. The main focus at the start of the project is food items within the food categories that children love.
The 8–12 segment is too small to make money on single products, and the LTV is too short to build long-term strategies and plans for the audience. Therefore, the company has formed a cross-category portfolio of goods, content and services, each of which has a margin delta, that generates income.
In its organizational model, YU is a hybrid structure that has incorporated some of the elements of a traditional industrial company, a content company, and a communications agency. At the same time, the YU team focuses only on the key points of brand value formation, it actively creates partnerships and shares its margin, delegating “commodity functions” to partners without wasting time building complex operational processes. This allows to have a very small team, maintain a high speed of development, a speed of reaction to circumstances and speed of decision-making.
The speed and depth of interaction with audiences are the company’s key competitive advantages. Children are impatient, they want to see how their ideas come to life right away. Undoubtedly, there are many risks of making mistakes within this approach, but with the fastest response to any mistakes made, its price is low.
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Against all rules
There are a lot of new and non-standard approaches within the business itself in brand development. Traditional professional assertions are regularly questioned, primarily under the influence of children, they are first introduced as an experiment, and then become the company norm. Experiment is another important word for YU and part of the company’s DNA.
The brand does not have rigid guidelines, only general indicators. As a rule, the general procedures or, in other words, the Brand Book is an important component of any brand development project, and it is the protection of the brand from the sometimes destructive desire to express the creativity of a large number of people working with the brand. In the case of Yummy United, the opposite is true: the procedures will appear later, as a result of the accumulated experience, and at the start it is necessary to adhere to the general requirements, leaving freedom for creative experimentation.
The package design steps away from professional canons accepted in the branding industry. The first comments received from colleagues in the field were “Where is the integrity and where is the consistency, why is everything the same color, why are all the lines different, why don’t the colors of the flavors match the color of the main ingredient?” But for children, it doesn’t matter that much, they want it to be bright and different, and Yummy United strives to follow their recommendations and make the brand concept credible.
The packaging is just an entry point for the interaction: unique hidden QR codes on each product are linked to two mobile applications. Then, its own YouTube channel is added to the mix and all social media in which children play an active role in, special programs with retail chains and marketing partnerships.
All company activities are permeated with audience interaction, as part of a single ideological platform: Within every child lies a strong creative personality and the mission of Yummy United is to help manifest it, teach children to bring ideas to life, and strengthen the belief that he or she can change the world.
Russians in Italy and world ambitions
The business was founded as an international company, and Italy became the first market for Yummy United. The company was presented in 2019 at TuttoFood Milano. A bright booth full of children, members of the first Italian Yummy United Children’s Board of Directors, presenting chocolate glazed quark bars unknown to the Italian market (first product on European markets) impressed the visitors of the exhibition. Soon, Yummy United received coverage by numerous media outlets, and its founders received cooperation proposals from Italy, Germany, England, USA, UAE, China, Hong Kong and Russia.
The main product that the company takes on to international markets is cottage cheese bars, a product with a rich history, popular in the post-Soviet space, but almost unknown on the outside. The combination of a unique brand concept and a unique product allows to attract attention and easily initiate business negotiations.
The company plans to develop global and local partnerships within a single model: each country has its own Kid’s Board of Directors, an adapted portfolio, common programs, regulations, a small team managing the brand, interaction with children.
Yummy United in Russia
In February 2020, Yummy United entered Russia, presenting its first Kid’s Board of Directors, assembled from employee children from the Magnit retail chain, as part of a partnership agreement. Today, Yummy United products can also be purchased in other retail chains in Russia. After 18 months of work on the Russian market, five Kid’s Board of Directors were formed, and 18 items in 5 categories were developed and put on store shelves. The company’s development plans go far beyond food products created for and with children.