As natural food practices move from fad to mainstream culture, consumers are continuously pressuring major CPG companies to remove artificial food additives, in the hopes of cutting down their ingredient list to a sizable, recognizable inventory. Companies such as Hershey and Kraft have promised loyal consumers a simpler list of ingredients, helping to promote a cleaner lifestyle.
For Kraft, the murmurs surrounding artificial color came to a head in 2014, where the brand saw sales plummet in both third and fourth quarters of the year. As the juxtaposition between the brand’s products and consumer interests were growing, Kraft had to act quickly.
To adjust to consumer expectation, Kraft made an announcement on April 20th that their business would be changing the ingredient list in their nationally-beloved macaroni and cheese.
When performing a consumer trend analysis through Crimson’s platform, we can see that on that day, overall consumer reactions varied. However, negative sentiment dominated the brand’s conversation, ranking in at 45%.
okay KRAFT just because some people are on health kicks & annoying about it doesn’t mean you can TAKE AWAY THE ORANGE POWDER MAC AND CHEESE
— carley (@carley_savannah) April 23, 2015
@kraftmacncheese THANK YOU for your plans to take out artificial preservatives & synthetic colors in your LOVED Mac and cheese BRAVO KRAFT ?
— Joe’s Girl (@mejoesgirl84) April 20, 2015
Kraft Mac & Cheese changing its formula Jan 2016- will it taste the same? #stockup
— Jim Davis (@jimatlkg) April 20, 2015
So, in an effort to ‘Keep Calm, and Kraft On’ the brand did something that they referred to as “the world’s largest blind taste test”, reporting that stores would start replacing the old recipe beginning January 2016. However, secretly, Kraft began stocking shelves in stores a month in advance, in December of 2015.
Did this taste test fare well with consumers? Did customers notice the change?
Using social media analytics, to examine the topics of conversation from December 2015 to March 2016, there appears to be no mention of the change in flavor throughout top conversations. Instead, talks of “making”, “eating” and “dinner” dominated the conversation over those 3 months. Therefore, we can assume, that although the recipe changed, consumers were still enjoying, eating, and making Kraft, same as before the recipe had shifted.
Kraft Secretly Changes an Old Favorite for the Better: Your mac and cheese changed.
— Bennie InGRAM (@bestInforReview) March 9, 2016
— KRAFT Mac & Cheese (@kraftmacncheese) March 7, 2016
Finally, on March 7th, Kraft revealed that the brand had been using the new recipe for months. Even after this announcement, consumers didn’t seem to be phased, with late February and early March conversations still surrounding the preparation and consumption of the mac and cheese.
In fact, discussion of the recipe change didn’t spike until March 8th, with talks of the new recipe only making up a small 2% of the conversation.
From this analysis, we can see that brands like Kraft can utilize social listening to adjust their products to mirror consumer desires. Through social insights, marketing professional and sales team can follow consumer trends to see if there is a shift in sentiment as new product changes are released. Kraft’s ingredient switch, unbeknownst to consumers was undoubtedly a success for Kraft, as positive sentiment on the brand’s twitter account actually increased 28% from January 2015 to March 2016.
Mission accomplished Kraft.
For further insights on how social supports strategic decisions, we invite you to read through our CPG guide.