If you ask Dan Brooks, “bard of the brand” at Vital Farms, what sets the company’s eggs and butter apart is that they are pasture raised—not to be confused with cage-free or free-range. But navigating these nuances is something that consumers still struggle with. “We did a consumer survey in 2014 and asked consumers how they would describe the conditions of a cage-free hen,” he says. “The majority of consumers say they live outside and they roam the field. But that’s not the case.”
Instead, Brooks explains, cage-free hens are often confined to a barn, with about 1 square foot allotted per hen; free range hens are allotted 2 square feet. Drawing a line in the sand, Vital Farms worked with Certified Humane to develop a pasture raised designation, which requires a space allotment of 108 square feet per bird on rotated pastures. “This is a challenge we face,” adds Brooks. “It’s finding a good way to explain to potential customers what pasture raised is, and why they should care.”
Vital Farms does this in two creative ways.
It may not be the first strategy that comes to mind when getting the word out about a product like eggs, but Vital Farms (a “scrappy” brand, according to Brooks) has found success with sampling. Anytime a team member is in a retail store, they check Vital Farms’ egg cartons for any with breakages. They then buy that carton at retail price, and distribute the uncracked eggs to consumers in the aisle. “It’s a great opportunity to engage someone standing at the egg set and looking perplexed at the terms presented on the carton,” Brooks adds.
One of the most significant branding and educational steps the company took was redesigning the packaging. “We tapped into this idea that a lot of our customers buy their eggs at farmers markets, but if they couldn’t make it to the farmers market, we were their second choice,” says Brooks. So the brand drew inspiration from farmers markets’ chalkboard signs, and created chalkboard-inspired packaging. “This is a farmers market product, marked by humane treatment and small local farms,” Brooks says. “The wording is the art, and gives us a canvas to describe what we do in a way that’s aesthetically pleasing.”