Cincinnati Enquirer on MA-ME!

The tag line is, “Ma-Me’s always right!” The radio ad — just as catchy — is “I want my Ma-Me!”

Ma-Me! (sounds like Mommy) is ready-to-eat edamame, pronounced ad-ah-mah-may and more commonly known as fresh green soybeans.

It’s a high-protein, high-fiber and cholesterol-free snack being test-marketed at five area bigg’s stores, with a national launch in mind.

But there’s more to it than that.

Behind Ma-Me! is Anne Chambers, whose RED marketing/communications agency and television production company is one of Cincinnati’s top 10 women-owned businesses, according to a survey by the Cincinnati Business Courier.

Behind Chambers’ fling with Ma-Me! was a trip to China, and behind that trip to China was the 1995 adoption of a little girl, Annie Chang.

So it’s only natural that part of the revenue derived from the sale of Ma-Me! goes to the cause of international adoptions, getting prospective parents together with children.

“My trip to China not only turned me into a mother, but it also sparked an interest in maintaining a healthier diet,” said Chambers, 51. “Once back home, I saw an opportunity to offer people a snack product that actually was good for them."

Ma-Me! is produced by Chambers' new company, Bright Future Foods, named for her 10-year-old daughter.

Bright Future is the English translation of Annie's birth name, and Ma-Me! is the company's first product.

"Bigg's is always looking at ways to find healthy snack alternatives for kids and adults, and when Anne came in to talk to me, I thought 'what a great idea,'" said Marvin Lyons, produce director for bigg's, the Milford-based subsidiary of the Supervalu supermarket chain with 13 Tristate locations.

The stores testing the waters are in Anderson Township, Hyde Park, Mason, Pleasant Ridge and West Chester Township.

"It's doing extremely well," Lyons said. "The 6-ounce snack bags," which sell for $2.79, "are moving out of the produce bins quickly, and customer response has been outstanding."

Bigg's introduced the snack food four weeks ago and already has sold about 1,500 units, Lyons said this week.

Ma-Me! is packaged in a brown bag for easy disposal of the pods. "Just POP the beans out of the pods. Then TOSS the pod into the bag. You don't eat the pod," the label reads.

Chambers said she had the idea several years ago, but "bought RED and couldn't do both."

PERFECT TRENDS

Chambers launched RED - formerly Redna Productions, an in-house production company divested by Procter & Gamble Co. - in 2001. She was an executive producer for Redna at the time. Since taking it over in 2001 and expanding it, RED's revenues have grown from $2 million to nearly $9.2 million in 2004.

Sales this year are projected to reach $11 million, and the industry publication Adweek has ranked RED among the top 100 independent agencies of its kind in the country.

"The success of RED is what's making everything else possible," Chambers said. Among RED's clients: Tide, Swiffer, Olay and Prilosec OTC for P&G; Ortho products for Marysville, Ohio-based Scott's and the Simmons HealthSmart Bed.

Susan Harrington, president and chief executive officer of Idealine, a Norwood company that helps people launch new products, researched Chambers' Ma-Me! snack idea for several months before giving it a stamp of approval.

"We look at all the different aspects of the idea - the trends, the packaging, the competition," Harrington said. "We look to see if it's worth the time and money to invest."

In Chambers' case, it was well worth it.

"The trends here were perfect," Harrington said. "Soy is going through the roof and people are looking for a healthier way of living."

What's even more compelling about the product is its tie-in to adoptions, Harrington said.

"I've lived in Third World countries - my dad worked for the United Nations - and I'm such a big believer in cause-related marketing.

"If you're going to choose between product 'x' and product 'y' and 'y' is giving back to something you believe in, then wouldn't you want to choose product 'y' if all of the other attributes are the same?"

BRIGHT FUTURE FUNDS

Which brings us back to Chambers.

"I've always been a big believer that a company should stand for something," Chambers said.

As an adoptive parent and member of the board of the International Adoption Center at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Chambers said she chose adoption as one of her company's causes.

And so, concurrent with the launch of Bright Future Foods, Chambers established the Bright Future Adoption Foundation, which will receive 10 percent of after-tax profits from Bright Future Foods.

The foundation's mission: to raise awareness of adoption, and to help families adopt by giving them some financial assistance.

The first gifts will be distributed by the end of this year, Chambers said.

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