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‘Tis The Season – To Go Gluten-Free?

Seems some processed-food marketing types apparently held a ‘short-straw’ draw to decide who would come up with the Holiday Season Marketing/Promo, Fad/Trend for 2020. And the lucky loser must have had a hangover, because all they could come up with was a ride on the Gluten-Free Express…

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Within four days, two major brands I follow declared their ‘next big innovation’ would be to go Gluten Free. No, really. Couldn’t come up with anything else more creative or mass-appealing than that. So much for taking advantage of the year-end Holiday Season consumer spend-a-rama by offering something really, really nifty for their fans.

I predict that food product marketing types, having exhausted their imaginations and explored ever innovation lobes just couldn’t come up with anything else.

Kraft Mac & Cheese

KD is going Gluten Free for Christmas (and thereafter). Offering the option of Gluten-free Pasta, the ancient and venerable product will soon be set to appeal to a wider audience. How much wider? It’s estimated that only 1 percent of folks the world over suffer celiac diease – an allergy to Gluten. But that didn’t stop Senior Associate Brand Manager Emily Violett to oooh! and ahhh! in a news release that this new offering is a proud moment for the brand:

“Families love our Kraft Mac & Cheese, and we didn’t want to limit who could enjoy our iconic blue box,” she said: “With our new gluten free offering, fans with dietary restrictions or gluten intolerance can now have our deliciously cheesy Kraft Gluten Free Mac & Cheese, and that’s something to smile about!”

C’mon, Emily! It’s just Mac & Cheese! And famously low-caste M&C, at that. And the only change is that the Pasta will now be made from Brown Rice and Corn.

Ah, well… Even the most skillful of the pros can be expected to hit a wall eventually.

OREOs follows suit

I was initially shocked to learn that even OREOs will give us a new Gluen-free option early in the new year. The promo-stunt crazies at OREOs have lashed us over the past couple of years with an almost continuous cavalcade of new-flavours and other marketing ploys are now scraping the bottom of their barrel, too, making a big deal that their iconic Original Cream Sandwich Cookie will be available in a Gluten-free version early next year.

In a post just a few days ago, about the death of innovation and the rise of desperation in the Fast Food Industry, I remarked:

“OREOs, which must have set a record for releasing new Cream Sandwich Cookie variations by this writing, is branching out to ‘healthier alternatives’. Behold, the Gluten-Free OREO line, which is due to show up on store shelves this coming January. No mention of the price in the official Nabisco news release, but I suspect the Gluten-free OREOs will – like other Gluten-free products – cost significantly more than the ‘original’ ones.”

My take…

I’m afraid we’re at the point where the whole ‘raising the brand profile’ thing has reached its upper extremity; used up all the good ideas.

“Our profile is crashing!” say the corporate executives. “Something must be done!”

“Um…” say the marketing and promo people, bereft of any really substantive, creative ideas. Finding ‘Go Gluten Free’ in the bottom of their almost-empty Bag of Tricks they say, “Well…This is something…”

And the panicked execs say, “Okay! Then we must do it!”

There are a few options that can address the inspiration crisis. One, Get some new talent into the creative department. Two, start thinking outside the  (instant Mac & Cheese) Box. Three, challenge all employees in the company to suggest new products that would be complementary to your existing hit products, or new markets that haven’t been saturated. Or…

Whatever the top dogs come up with next, it had better be truly fresh and appealing to the existing product fan base. It might be as essentially as simple as selling a box with Pasta, Cheese Powder and a pouch of spices and thickeners to complement Ground Beef (which the customer has to provide), and writing up some instructions or a new ‘Quick, Tasty Delight: Mac & Cheese Sloppy Joes!”… Get the idea?

~ Maggie J.