Demographic Segmentation Becomes Common Packaging Strategy

Demographic segmentation, the time-tested tool of mass media advertisers, is becoming a more common packaging strategy as food companies develop line extensions to appeal to every conceivable sliver of the population.

By Kate Bertrand, Packaging Editor

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Marketers are creating products for segments based on ethnicity, gender, age and household size — and creating packaging to appeal to individuals within those demographic categories.

One of the most attractive segments, based on purchasing power alone, is the U.S. Hispanic population. Research from the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia (www.selig.uga.edu), Athens, Ga., indicates Hispanic consumers will control $1 trillion in spending power in 2008, up from $653 billion in 2003.

“Marketers are seeing the numbers. Hispanic-Americans are spending money on their brands, so marketers are spending money to reach them,” says Nancy Brown, managing partner with strategic branding firm Colemanbrandworx (www.cbx.com) and head of CBX’s Minneapolis office. “More and more companies are getting off the fence and saying, ‘We want these consumers. What’s a motivating way to get them?’”

Pillsbury Polvorones are colorful shortbread cookies that are a holiday treat in the Latino community.
Pillsbury Polvorones are colorful shortbread cookies that are a holiday treat in the Latino community.

As an example, General Mills Inc. (www.generalmills.com), Minneapolis, reportedly spent $10.2 million on Spanish-language media in 2005, and just last month launched a three-times-a-year magazine, “Que Rica Vida” (“What a rich life”). Cocina Betty (Betty’s Kitchen), which opened last year as a separate section of product development center Betty Crocker Kitchens, launched a churro-flavored version of its Bugles corn snacks, and developed an entirely new product for the Hispanic segment: Pillsbury Polvorones.

Polvorones are a colorful Spanish shortbread cookie, a holiday treat in the Latino community. The paperboard packaging is “very colorful and celebratory,” says Brown, whose firm designed the package. Much of the copy on the package is in Spanish.

Brown adds that the package graphics “leverage the Dough Boy, which is a big equity for Pillsbury. The company used the back of the package for serving tips and to leverage the Pillsbury-in-Spanish website, which brings these consumers into the broader franchise.”

Recognizing the strong brand loyalty of Hispanic consumers and the segment’s above-average affinity for Bisquick, brand owner General Mills also has begun to put Hispanic-inspired recipes on the back of Bisquick packaging.

What women want

Gender-based segmentation is another increasingly popular strategy for product and package development.

“There does seem to be an increase in the number of food and beverage products in the USA that bear a gender-specific positioning,” says Tom Vierhile, director of Productscan Online at Datamonitor Naples (www.datamonitor.com), Naples, N.Y. “For women, we tracked 240 new product stock keeping units that launched in 2005 vs. 71 in 2004, 93 in 2003, and 174 in 2002,” he adds. “For men, the number was 127 SKUs for 2005 vs. 35 for 2004, 36 in 2003, and 39 in 2002.”

The growth in food products for women is occurring in categories ranging from nutrition bars to wine. Clif Bar & Co. (www.clifbar.com), Berkeley, Calif., recently launched the Luna Sunrise bar, a morning nutrition bar created specifically for on-the-go women.

Clif Bar conducted product concept testing to determine what ingredients in the Luna Sunrise bar resonated most with women.
Clif Bar conducted product concept testing to determine what ingredients in the Luna Sunrise bar resonated most with women.

The Luna Sunrise bar packaging, a flexible pouch, uses the brand’s signature blue and yellow palette but reconfigures the colors to make yellow dominant. Clif also varied the graphics on the packaging to connote morning, replacing the moon image with a sun image. In addition, the icon of a solitary dancer appears on the Luna Sunrise pouch instead of three dancers.

The company conducted product concept testing to determine what ingredients in the Luna Sunrise bar resonated most with consumers. “One of the things we learned is that we had packed this product with so many different nutrients that we had to do a good job of communicating what it all was,” says Kristel Cerna, Luna Bar brand director at Clif Bar.

To do that, the company created an easy-to-read nutrition chart for the package’s back panel that breaks out the ingredients into three categories:

  • “Start Your Day,” which includes the organic ingredients, heritage whole grains, fiber and soy protein.
  • “Nourish Your Body,” which lists vitamins and minerals.
  • “Sustain Your Life,” which provides the antioxidants.

“We’ve found a lot of people have heard the nutrition buzzwords through the media, but they don’t always know what the nutrients are doing for them,” Cerna says. “We’re trying to help educate them.”

At the opposite end of the consumables spectrum, O’Brien Family Vineyard (www.obrienfamilyvineyard.com), Napa, Calif., uses packaging to help position Seduction, a Bordeaux blend, as a red wine for women.

The Seduction bottle is merchandised in a sheer red gift bag, and an “O” printed in metallic gold on the front label shines through the fabric bag. The sensuous brand story carries over to the back label, where copy describes Seduction as “a voluptuous wine with sensual flavors and a velvet kiss.”

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