Kraft Pushes Mac n Cheese on Adults – Smart Move?

One of the bigger success stories during the time that I was at Campbell Soup was the turnaround of the condensed soup business – specifically, the cornerstones of that franchise, Campbell’s Tomato and Chicken Noodle soups.  Without getting into all the details, one of the main keys to that turnaround was the team’s ability to refocus our products and our positioning on where we had the greatest “Right to Win.”

For example, for years Campbells condensed Chicken Noodle soup had been beaten up on by the competition for being too kid-like.  We took flak for being bland, not having enough stuff, not having big enough pieces of stuff, etc…  This was all very effective while we were focused on trying to compete for adult share of stomach.  We finally realized, however, that Campbells Chicken Noodle condensed soup did not have the greatest “Right to Win” with adults.  As our competition had so aptly pointed out, though, we had a HUGE Right to Win with kids.  And so began a massive campaign towards kids that led to the turnaround of years and years of volume declines on that business.

In what seems like the exact opposite of that case study, Kraft has decided to take their Mac n Cheese business and begin an ad push to position it towards adults.  (New York Times article – Kraft Hopes to Encourage Adults to Revert to a Childhood Favorite) On the surface, looking at the data that would point towards more stay-at-home meals for consumers – even as we come out of the recession.  And I am sure that there is plenty of research that shows that adults love to clean their kids’ plates when they leave the yummy mac n cheese over.

However, the real question is does the Mac n Cheese product have the ability to compete for adult share of stomach and, in it’s current form, does it have a Right to Win in that space?  Adults wanting to finish their kids’ leftovers is a very different thing than making it as a meal for themselves – when it may fall flat in terms of satisfying the total adult hunger (and nutritional) needs.

Even if Kraft awakes adults’ hidden desire for Mac n Cheese – will they reap the benefits of this increased demand?  There are currently several other products (think Stouffers) that offer more adult-oriented mac and cheese meal solutions.

On one hand, I applaud Kraft’s desire to think outside the box (no pun intended) and look for expanded demand from their current product line.  It shows that they are paying attention to their consumers and looking for hidden pockets of demand that they can easily exploit.

However, I wonder if just coming up with a new ad twist with the same exact product line is perhaps the easiest path that may provide the least returns.  What if they had leveraged the equity in the brand and the nostalgia that adults have for it and transformed that into a decidedly more adult experience?

Just a thought.  What’s yours?


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