Kraft bets on Jell-O to make a comeback

The struggling food giant hopes to jiggle more sales from its iconic brand.

By Jonathan Berr Aug 13, 2013 4:48PM
Jell-O, once synonymous with dessert for past generations, has fallen on hard times, and corporate parent Kraft (KRFT) is hoping a new push can breathe life into the fading brand.

The snacks and beverage giant, which recently reported disappointing earnings, this week launched a new advertising campaign for Jell-O called "Fun Things Up," according to Advertising Age.
One spot in the campaign features a father telling his young son how Jell-O can alleviate the injustices of the adult world, such as losing your hair and having a jerk for a boss. "The chocolatey taste of Jell-O pudding makes up for all of that," the ad notes.

A former Kraft executive, Rick Shea, told Ad Age that Jell-O has "lost relevancy" with consumers, particularly as overall dessert consumption has fallen. Jell-O products have not made the transition to snacking, either.A box of Jell-O

According to Symphony/IRI data cited by Advertising Age, sales of Kraft's gelatin dessert mix fell 0.45% to $154 million in the year ending July 14. Sales of refrigerated pudding mousse and gelatin fared even worse, plunging 19% to $337 million.

Kraft, which spun off its snacks business into a separate company, Mondelez (MDLZ), earlier this year, is focused on what CEO Tony Vernon has called "turbocharging our iconic brands" including Jell-O, Planters nuts and Kool-Aid. The company has taken longer to develop its Jell-O campaigns than other brands because "it takes time to create great advertising," Vernon said in an earnings call. 

Vernon is using money saved from cost cuts in other parts of the company to raise spending on marketing for Jell-O and other brands such as Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. The company, though, is struggling. During a recent earnings conference call, Vernon mentioned its "slower-than-expected second quarter." 

Whether "Fun Things Up" will make consumers forget about the classic commercials Bill Cosby made for the product remains to be seen. Kraft also is dealing with changing eating habits and is trying to convince consumers that Jell-O makes a good snack. That may be easier said than done.

For one thing, the percentage of dinners that include dessert has fallen to 13.8%, the lowest number in 25 years, NPD Group analyst Harry Balzer told the trade publication. Plus, the choices available for snackers are endless.

--Jonathan Berr thinks that Jell-O with fruit in it is the best. He doesn't own shares of the listed stocks.  Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.

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Aug 13, 2013 5:24PM
Bring back Bill Cosby to do some Jell-O Pudding Pop commercials and I'd probably buy some.

We could all use a little more Bill Cosby right about now.

Aug 14, 2013 9:24AM
It's no surprise that sales of the ready-to-eat puddings and gelatin have fallen more precipitously than the mixes. The individual cups have been downsized to little more than a shot glass while the price has remained the same or increased. Not a recipe for success when you can make your own so easily and so much cheaper... 
Aug 14, 2013 1:48PM
Quick suggestion....sell off the Jell-O brand to Smirnoff or Absolut.....
I still have a place in my heart for the" iconic" brands, as long as Jello and Kool aid stay in expensive I will still buy them ^_^. The others( Kraft Mac and cheese) and Planters have really shot up, I don't get them as much now, choosing the generic, when I can afford it.
Aug 15, 2013 6:30PM


Aug 14, 2013 3:08PM
I love it just the way it is.  Please don't fix something that's not broke!  
Aug 13, 2013 7:14PM
Hi, they should supply the cups you need to make one box. It will make serving and clean up a snap.
Aug 13, 2013 5:26PM
I laughed my a$$ off when I saw that commercial. The kid with the comb-over is great.
Aug 14, 2013 3:25PM
The days of the jello mold have passed like the passing of Mayberry and Beaver Cleaver. People think that it is too sugary even though they will eat all sorts of other things that contain much more sugar. There is no strong dietary attachment to jello products so it seems reasonable to see it slide in market share. Plain old gelatin (Knox by brand name) is so much more adaptable to cooking and it doesn't come with tons of sugar.
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