One thing you can say about food giant Kraft — they're getting craftier when it comes to brand marketing.
Whether it's beefing up smaller brands, or linking American cheese with the great American pastime of baseball, Kraft finds contemporary ways to keep brands relevant.
Now the company is doing just that for two long-lasting brands, both of which are getting an update that centers around healthier eating.
Oscar Mayer Lunchables, the all-in-one lunch meal for kids, has been a school lunch staple for years, but it has also garnered criticism from nutritional experts who have lambasted its typically high sugar/high carb content. Even so, the brand has maintained a leadership position in the category. Ad Age reports that Lunchables had sales of $569 million in the year ended March 20, an increase of over 11%.
But Kraft, ever conscious of consumer trends, is re-engineering Lunchables to take advantage of the increasing awareness of the childhood obesity problem, popularized by the likes of First Lady Michelle Obama, Sesame Street's Elmo, and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.
The "new" Lunchables includes Dole fruit, like Pineapple or Mandarin Oranges. Mindee Elam, Lunchables brand manager, tells Ad Age, "This is something consumers have been requesting and we're listening. Fruit is the number one requested item that mom is already adding to the brown-bag lunch. It makes perfect sense... for us to include that in our product."
While the move placates nutritionists, some believe it doesn't go far enough. Susan Levin, a registered dietitian and director of nutrition education for the Cancer Project, tells Ad Age that it's great to see the addition of fruit, but "it is still an accompaniment to an unhealthful meal that is chock-full of chemicals and sugar."
Nonetheless, Kraft thinks this is a big enough deal to pump $20 million of marketing support into the line extension and will run ads on TV, in print, online, and outdoor. In fact, every digital video billboard in New York's Times Square will carry Lunchables advertising on a single day in May, according to Ad Age.
While Lunchables appeals to kids, Kraft is wooing moms, too. In a "reintroduction" of its Nabisco SnackWell's brand, one of the original low-fat and nonfat snack lines, Kraft is moving the brand into portion control territory, trading off of its successful launch of Nabisco-branded 100-calorie pack snacks in 2004.
If Kraft's addition of fruit to Lunchables represents the angelic side of more health-conscious eating, it's turning up the tempation in a devilish twist to its SnackWell's brand.
SnackWell's is launching Fudge Drizzled Caramel Popcorn, which will weigh in at 130 calories, as well as a white chocolate popcorn. SnackWell's is also introducing two 150-calorie snacks, Fudge Creme Brownie Bites and Rich Vanilla Creme Brownie Bites. The promotional tagline: "Be bad. Snack well."
Steve Siegal, SnackWell's senior brand manager, tells the New York Times that the products are designed to appeal to "a group of women out there who struggle with temptation and want responsible alternative that allow them to really enjoy sweets, but with an off switch because they have a difficult time stopping."
Kraft feels comfortable breaking the 100-calorie barrier with the new snacks because, as Siegal puts it, consumers "will have a few more calories if it satisfies their sweet craving."
Kraft is also moving four other varieties of Nabisco 100 Calorie packs under the SnackWell's label to expand the brand's offerings. SnackWell's Devil's Food Cookie Cakes and Creme Sandwich Cookies, leftovers from the original line, will still be sold but not in portion control packages.
Siegal says Kraft will spend "in the millions of dollars" to promote SnackWell's products. He added, "It's been a long time since the brand was out there in a big way, but this really is all about a new attitude and edge for the brand."