How Kraft Velveeta’s Brand Succeeded with Breakthrough Innovation to Millennials and Men

How Kraft Velveeta’s Brand Succeeded with Breakthrough Innovation to Millennials and Men

Velveeta is an iconic brand with a powerful equity.  Historically, the brand’s core consumer has included moms who incorporate Velveeta into family favorite recipes.  And, for many younger consumers, the Velveeta brand conjures up fond childhood memories of these warm meals.

Still, you might be surprised that in recent years, this brand has selected young adult Millennials and men as its target consumers. In fact, Velveeta has developed a successful business platform with these growth targets.  And, you will find Velveeta Cheesy Skillets in the Nielsen Breakthrough Innovation Report 2013, where the brand will be recognized for building a multi-year successful business platform.

Velveeta’s success story starts with deep consumer insights both about the brand, and about the growth targets’ needs.  The brand’s “Velveeta Nation” insight was that most consumers within the growth target have those fond childhood memories of the brand, but were not using the brand’s traditional product offerings regularly.  Kraft’s research on the growth target consumers showed that Millennials and younger men ‘like to experiment with their dishes,’ as described in this Tribune article. Kraft’s vice president of breakthrough innovation Barry Calpino describes how younger men see cooking, “It’s an adventure, it’s fun, they talk about ‘their signature.’”

Velveeta’s Cheesy Skillets’ communications take a tongue in cheek approach to reach consumers.  Stereotypical moms are addressed by the blacksmith who encourages them (in a cheesy way) to save their family dinner from the drive-through or frozen meals and to ‘wield the skillet.’

The ‘liquid gold’ of Velveeta is also the hero of Velveeta Shells and Cheese depicting ‘helicopter guy’ in the mall.

One approach to capturing Millennials is to create a new brand, Mio, as we explored previously. Velveeta Cheesy Skillets shows that it’s also quite possible to build a successful business with Millennials using a well-known iconic brand.

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  • In 2002, the FDA restricted Kraft from calling itself a 'pasteurized cheese food,' to something only a marketer would understand, a 'cheese product.' With less than 51% of Velvetta being cheese, or more than 50% percent being anything but food, the hocus-pocus of food-like products continues. Recently, I read the ingredient list on the side of Mac&Cheese, an old staple of my youth. I found everything imaginable in the product but cheese. My advise to Dad's who want to cook is this: learn to cook the things your grandmother or her mother prepared. Only use ingredients you can pronounce. And above all, don't just teach your kids how to open a package, or use a microwave. Teach them what food is and teach yourself how really use a skillet and sauce pan.

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    Michal Clements

    Michal is co-author of Tuning Into Mom and an experienced consultant. Michal develops winning growth strategies and detailed go to market plans for some of the world’s outstanding organizations including McDonald’s, Gatorade, Abbott, Barilla, Tylenol, Clorox, Key Bank, Eagle Ottawa, Quaker and the Baker Demonstration School.

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