100 calorie meltdown ~ Brand Mix

Monday, June 29, 2009

100 calorie meltdown

Photo: me

Are the days for 100 calorie packs numbered? Brandweek reports that sales of most 100-calorie packs are down. Oreo Thin Crisps, for example, are off 31% vs last year. The "mini munchie" craze started back in 2004 with Kraft launch of Oreo Thin crisps as well as Wheat Thin Minis and Nabisco Mixed Berry Fruit Snacks and, seeing the success, General Mills, Frito-Lay and others all jumped in with their own products.

The article points to several possible reasons why: The recession in general as well as issues with taste and wasteful packaging. "The Supermarket Guru" Phil Lempert is quoted as saying that newly frugal consumers have figured out how to measure out 100-calories by themselves. And/or maybe it's that portion control is now out of favor and everyone's on to the next thing to help us stick to a reasonable diet.

I think that all these factors have played a part but I'd like to throw in one more: The product architecture. A couple of weeks ago, I was having a discussion with myself (and others) about Frito Lay's Baked! line of chips. I could see the logic in promoting Baked! to lead status on the packaging but I wasn't sure that leading with a generic name and relegating the "real" brands like Cheetos to secondary status was the right way to go. Even more so with the 100-calorie packs. Another generic name, this time being used by lots of different manufacturers as a descriptor for a category of products.

You can see from the photo the consequences of leading with "100-calorie" vs. Oreo, Ritz etc--there's a strong billboard effect but the packaging design looks generic. Contrast the 100-calorie packs from Nabisco with Pepperidge Farm's alternative approach with Goldfish (also in the photo) which places the 100 calorie message as a secondary message more in the tradition of fat free or lite. Less billboard but more branding. (For an in-between approach, see here for the way that Pepperidge Farm has added 100 calorie to its line of cookies.)

I wonder what would have happened if the 100 calorie message had been softer-pedalled? Perhaps less initial success but a longer-term future?

1 comment:

Denise Lee Yohn said...

good point, martin -- it seems to me people are buying the product/brand 1st, then the 100 calorie portion -- marketers who've failed to see this and design their packaging appropriately deserve their brand demise.

a related thought -- would it have been more effective to shelve the 100 calorie options alongside their full-calorie packages vs. to put all the 100 calorie products together? i'm guessing that was a retailer-driven decision (and perhaps out of the manufacturers' control), but nonetheless it further dilutes brand power.

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