Kisses. Kit Kats. Krackels. What do these names have in common? They’re classic chocolate brands, and part of the Hershey family—an iconic name that’s been a part of consumers’ lives for more than a century. So how does an iconic brand turn familiarity into growth?
At Nielsen’s Consumer 360 conference in San Antonio, Michele Buck, president of Hershey North America, shared how the company tapped a deep understanding of its consumers to drive growth for the brand, the category and at retailers. She said in 2005, Hershey recognized that it was focused on short-term success and operations, and business wasn’t growing as a result.
“So we committed as a company to become consumer- and demand-centric,” said Buck. “We started asking how we would build the right consumer solutions for us and our retailers to win with the right consumer.”
At that point, Hershey adopted a consumer demand landscape as the foundation for its new growth strategies. “We needed to uncover what uniquely connects us to consumers and maximize that connection across all our brands,” Buck said.
The company sought to better understand its consumers and where there was an unmet need. It was also critical to understand their shopping experiences and buying occasions. Integrating that data into Hershey’s daily business was key to activating and getting results in the marketplace. Buck shared how the approach unwrapped a new opportunity in “on-the-go” snacking. The company found that consumers wanted more convenient, hand-to-mouth options to enjoy during their breaks on any given day. “Break time” became the white space Kit Kat could own, a realization that led to a multi-year, multi-million dollar brand platform and the creation of Kit Kat Minis.
But Buck said the strategy didn’t only focus on the demands of consumers. She emphasized that the company’s goal also included seeking growth opportunities for its retail partners. For example, at a convenience retailer, Hershey created a total snacking solution that featured a display and packaging that was customized for the space at the register. Buck said the solution led to a $100 million boost in sales for the retailer and a $20 million lift for Hershey.
Using the consumer demand landscape to create a more unique retail experience also played a big role in Hershey’s success. Knowing that its customers loved using Hershey chocolate in in smores, the company began advertising the “smores occasion” in stores. For the promotion, the company partnered with Kraft, maker of the other essential smores ingredients—graham crackers and marshmallows—which led to growth for both brands.
While Hershey has a long history of success, Buck closed by noting that demand-driven insights would help the company and its industry partners gain even sweeter success.