Inside Cole's novel product launch

by Anna Wiber
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Middles can be prepared in the microwave and enjoyed on-the-go.

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. — When Cole’s Quality Foods, Inc., decided to launch Middles, frozen cheese-stuffed bread bites, the Grand Rapids-based company knew a standard marketing campaign wouldn’t cut it. Current sales trends within the frozen bread category were flat for the past few years. The brand needed to dig deep to generate excitement, so it headed to the small town of Lebanon, Kas., the geographical middle of the United States, to launch the product and sponsor Lebanon Bash.

“What resulted was an exciting event that brought nearly 1,000 people to the community, almost quintupling its population,” said Bruce Kratt, president of Cole’s.

Lebanon Bash provided the frozen baked foods manufacturer a unique way to connect with consumers and give back to the community. Attendees were able to try Cole’s products as well as participate in a range of outdoor activities that included a concert, community parade, fishing tournament and more. In addition, the company gave a $5,000 donation — an annual donation that will continue in perpetuity— to the town’s US Center Foundation, which promotes community stewardship.

A creative marketing campaign wasn’t the only effort put into this product’s launch. Going back more than a year ago, the company used focus groups to determine flavor concepts and packaging attributes. Through its research, Cole’s found that consumers connected with the microwavable-product because it was easy to prepare, share and could be enjoyed any time of day due to its diverse flavor offerings such as Plain Bread stuffed with 5 Cheese, Everything Bagel stuffed with Cream Cheese, French Toast Bagel stuffed with Sweet Cream Cheese, Plain Bread stuffed with Mac & Cheese, Plain Bagel stuffed with Cream Cheese and Pretzel stuffed with Beer Cheese. The product is available in 10.6 to 11.5-oz boxes with eight Middles in each box.

Cole’s used an approachable and fun packaging design to make Middles stand out in the highly competitive freezer case in retail stores.

“Frozen bread and the frozen snack category were just too average, and with our intent to bring new users and excitement, we took a differentiated approach,” Mr. Kratt said.

The brand brought the product to life by animating Middles into comical characters consumers would be sure to never forget.

With only a few frozen bakery items like it available, the stuffed bites have attracted retailers nationwide and are distributed to more than 25,000 stores. Middles were first introduced at grocery chains across the country in August, but recently gained traction in the food service sector as an appetizer and children’s menu item and c-stores as a grab-and-go snack.

To further support the product’s release and drive sales, Cole’s created a social media campaign that includes a community of influential bloggers. It also invested in account-specific tactics with retail partners and will hold different community events on college campuses and at businesses across the United States.

For more information about Cole’s Middles, visit www.tastymiddles.com.
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