The recession gripping the U.S. has prompted many families to eat in and to entertain at home, and in many ways, return to basics in an effort to save money. Many analysts are predicting that the changes being witnessed in consumer behavior will be permanent. While these changes have had a negative impact on some sectors, others have benefited by adapting to the changing times and leveraging fundamental brand strengths. Two such sectors -- canning and freezing supplies, and gardening supplies - have posted solid growth over the past year, with canning and freezing supplies posting unit sale growth of 14 percent over the last 52-weeks, making it the lead category in unit sales growth across all mega-categories tracked by Nielsen within food, drug and mass merchandising (including Walmart).
Given the number of articles about how more households (including the White House) are planting gardens and raising their own produce, this growth is not all that surprising. That said, it offers an excellent example of how manufacturers can continue to grow in a challenging environment by adapting to it. Ball and Kerr, the leading brands in the canning and freezing supplies category, have been in this industry for over a century. Yet because it has taken an innovative approach to marketing, it continues to be a relevant and successful company. Its messaging has been simple and hits on some of the most important consumer themes: value, family and environment. Their marketing has been effective not only because they offer value, but because it is integrated: they link to web sites that offer advice on canning and preserving, as well as highlighting new products.
Burpee Seeds, the nation's largest mail-order seed company, is another example of a company making the most of the current environment. It has reported record sales and has even sold out of some of its seed stock this year. One element of its success: promoting the value gardening can offer by citing a study that claims $50 spent on gardening supplies can become $1,250 worth of produce a year, clearly a message with resonance in these uncertain times.
These are just a few examples of companies running complete and integrated marketing campaigns that have adapted to and capitalized on the changing mood and behavior of American consumers. More CPG companies and retailers would be well-advised to follow the lead of these "old-fashioned" companies that have adroitly adjusted to the times.