Kraft bets big on cleaner labels

by Monica Watrous
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BOCA RATON, FLA. — Three trends define recent innovation at Kraft Foods Group, Inc.: protein, snacking and cleaner labels.

“With today's 24/7 active lifestyles, we see today’s consumers migrating from three meals to more frequent snacking, yet they also seek more authentic and less processed options to help get through their busy days, and protein continues to play a key role in the diets of consumers across the country, with 75% of adults adding more protein to their diets,” said Tony Vernon, chief executive officer of the Northfield, Ill.-based company, during a Feb. 18 presentation at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference in Boca Raton.

Aligning those need states is a new line under the Oscar Mayer banner called the P3 Portable Protein Pack. Set for a February debut with four varieties, the multi-compartment products contain 13 grams of protein and include Oscar Mayer Selects meat, Kraft Natural cheese and Planters nuts.

“That is the holy trinity of Kraft — all with no artificial preservatives,” Mr. Vernon said. “No one else can pull this off all under one roof as Kraft can.”

Another big bet involves a reboot of the Oscar Mayer Deli Fresh brand. Coming in March with a new look and taste, the Bold line includes four gluten-free varieties with no artificial preservatives in such flavors as Cajun turkey breast and chipotle chicken breast.

A renovation of the Philadelphia cream cheese brand also is under way, with an ad campaign that promises farm-to-fridge freshness and new soft cream cheese flavors made with no artificial ingredients and more real fruits and vegetables. The brand revamp also includes last year’s introduction of Philadelphia 2X Protein cream cheese spread, which contains twice as much protein as regular cream cheese with less fat and calories per serving than peanut butter.

Portability and customization play roles in Kraft’s product development, as well. New flavors of MiO liquid water enhancers and customizable varieties of Lunchables appeal to consumer desires for product personalization.

Kraft also is betting big on recent moves to remove artificial ingredients from some of its popular products, including artificial dyes from its shaped macaroni and cheese and artificial preservatives from select Kraft Singles sliced cheese. The company plans to extend its simpler-label strategy across the portfolio.

“Oscar Mayer has really defended itself beautifully with its Selects line, where we have replaced a very long chemical-sounding preservative with celery juice,” Mr. Vernon said. “We took that learning across the line, and we have seen how moms respond, and it is not just educated moms. It is every mom understands that this is the push for their kid, whether they are economically strapped or whether they are at the higher end of the barbell economy. So we believe it is a trend we can capitalize on. No artificial colors, preservatives and flavors is something you are going to see Kraft riding to the future.”

Expanding availability of better-for-you options drives Kraft’s nutrition-based efforts, but the company said it has no plans of landing shelf space in Whole Foods Market or other natural retailers.

“We are democratizing health and wellness; we are not marketing to the 1%,” Mr. Vernon said. “It is about taking it into Kroger’s and Wal-Marts and offering it to them in an aisle or two that carries these healthier options. Some of these retailers have done very well, so that has opened our eyes, but it is an investment for the future.”
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