Extra mayo, please: extending the product life cycle

Takeaway: As Americans have tightened their budgets throughout the current recession, the relatively mature mayonnaise market has experienced significant growth.

Sensing a large jump in top-of-mind awareness, Unilever has been making a strong push of its Hellman’s brand to take advantage of the rise of brown-baggers.

With the economy hopefully turning around, the brand is now in a classic dilemma of figuring out how to extend the product life cycle.

Their plan: pushing the “real” ingredients that make up mayo and give it the mystique of the secret ingredient you’ve had in your pantry that can enhance all dishes, from appetizer to dessert.

Creating new uses for a product is a tremendous way to extend that product life cycle; just ask Arm & Hammer. And with Thanksgiving just around the corner, maybe Hellman’s can continue to grow…one clogged artery at a time.

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Excerpted from BrandWeek, “The Mayo Clinic” by Elaine Wong, November 7, 2009

Thanks to the recessionary rise of eating at home and brown-bagging lunches for the office, mayo is no longer the staid standby in the back of the kitchen cupboard. And so sales growth — any sales growth — is welcome news for the folks who work in Hellmann’s nondescript office park in Englewood Cliffs. But Fish’s efforts raise some hard questions, among them: As the recession lifts, will mayo’s popularity fade once more? Will vigorous marketing be enough to overcome the market’s vicissitudes? And, in these health-conscious times, is it even possible to overcome the fact that mayonnaise is among the fattiest foods on the market?

Nonetheless, Fish is confident he can get fat-conscious, weight-obsessed Americans to eat more of the stuff. He plans to do that through a combination of creating more uses for the condiment and through the nostalgia sell — appealing to consumers who long to recreate the good-old days of meat and potatoes and other so-called “real food.”

“Remember,” Fish says, “Hellmann’s has always been made with eggs, oil and vinegar.” It’s the sort of message that purists would appreciate — and there seem to be a growing number of those. They’re the sort who devour books by culinary journalist Michael Pollan, and who thrust Julia Child’s half-century-old Mastering the Art of French Cooking back into best seller status in the wake of the film Julie & Julia.

Fish’s approach is on full display in this month’s “Hellmann’s real holiday helpings” campaign, which stars chef Bobby Flay. The Food Network personality is appearing in print and online ads touting Hellmann’s as an essential component in family-oriented, Thanksgiving meals. Ads from OgilvyEntertainment show Flay cooking alongside mothers and their kids. (It is Hellmann’s contention that involving children in the cooking process renders them more willing to eat the results. Plus, introducing them to mayo can’t hurt, either.)

“Recipes that require you to go to the grocery store and buy 10 new things that you didn’t happen to have is asking a lot of people,” Fish says. “This isn’t the time to be asking people to go the extra mile.” If mom is cooking and happens to have a jar of Hellmann’s around, she won’t have to go that extra mile at all.

At the same time, much of Fish’s strategy also hinges on getting home cooks to consider Hellmann’s mayo as their “secret sauce — that special something that I’ve done that you don’t know about that makes this dish taste so good,” he said. “We know from research that consumers love recipes with a secret ingredient in them,” Longfield adds. And mayonnaise, in this instance, does the trick.

Unilever has, in fact, been a staunch proponent of the “real food” movement. The basic line of reasoning is that consumers are more likely to buy goods from companies who can readily tell their ingredients’ stories. And Unilever’s not alone. In introducing Select Harvest, for instance, The Campbell Soup Co. touted it as a soup line “made from only ingredients that people can readily recognize.” Haagen-Dazs also has a line called Five named after the ice cream’s total list of ingredients.

Americans might not like the idea of fat, but they’re still willing to accept it. As the resurgence of Julia Child’s landmark French cookbook proved, Americans’ fear of fat seems secondary to their appreciation of honest and wholesome foods — many of which have lots of fat.

But how long would the good news last? With economists having just declared the recession officially over, it’s only a matter of time before brown-bagging it for lunch will lose its retro cool and families will again go out to eat for dinner. In fact, according to senior associate brand manager Jessica Teilborg, “the biggest competitor we deal with every day is out-of-home dining.”

Edit by JMZ

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Full Article:
http://www.brandweek.com/bw/content_display/news-and-features/direct/e3i8875589fada415ac765d6617882ef4b3

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