Heinz salad cream

Rebrand or PR stunt? What brands can learn from Heinz Salad Cream

In June this year, food group Kraft Heinz made an announcement that shocked consumers: it was considering renaming ‘Salad Cream’, a condiment that is a staple of food cupboards across the UK. For the first time in its 104-year history, Heinz Salad Cream would become Heinz Sandwich Cream.
The problem, according to the company, was that Heinz Salad Cream isn’t actually used on salad very much (research showed that just 14% of people eat it over their lettuce). Joel Hugues, Kraft Heinz’s UK sauces brands build lead, told the BBC: “There are consumers now who haven’t grown up with the brand in the household and just don’t know about the iconic zingy flavour or what to eat it with.” Cue suggestions across social media of just how many foods Salad Cream goes with, including on British national television. Genius.

The Twitterverse exploded. (Don’t mess with the Brits when it comes to their favourite sauces.) Heinz listened. It commissioned new research and discovered that 87% of people wanted the brand name to remain. In September, Heinz announced in a video – that brilliantly demonstrates the brand’s quirky tone of voice – that it would not ‘ignore the will of the people’, and Salad Cream was here to stay.

This isn’t the first time Heinz has harnessed public outrage to generate some great PR for the brand. In 1999, it threatened to stop producing Salad Cream altogether as sales were falling. A (pre-social media) outcry ensued, the sauce was relaunched, and sales increased.
Whether this was a beautifully-executed PR stunt by Heinz, or whether there really was a name change in the offing, we may never know. Either way, it shows a real understanding of what its customers value, and that’s what really counts here. It takes a brave brand to risk the wrath of its consumers. But far better to find out that customers hate the idea before you spend millions on a rebrand. Just ask Gap, whose new logo lasted just six days into a social media backlash, before the brand ditched it to return to the old one, at a reported cost of more than $100million.

What can brands learn from this?

  • Testing an idea publicly is risky – but ultimately less risky than not testing it. It can gain you a whole new audience, save you a fortune, and let your fans rediscover a brand they may have forgotten.
  • If you know what people love about your brand (heritage, in the case of Heinz), you can be playful in your marketing, and garner a response. Consumers apparently spontaneously defending a brand is clever marketing.
  • Using social listening is a smart way to understand how people use your product and how that’s changed. I’ll bet Heinz learned a lot through this campaign about how people eat Salad Cream.
  • Every now and again, shaking things up can be good for sales. If 1999 is anything to go by, there will be more people buying Salad Cream over the coming months.

To learn more about consumer insight that can help your business, get in touch, or read more on our insights page.

Contact Us
close slider