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    Mixed Grill

    All I want for Christmas is soup, Twinkies and pork rinds

    As we wind up the year and head into the holidays, let’s see what’s hiding under the ol’ PG center store tree …

    Talking Soup

    I recently took part in one of the Campbell Soup Co.’s series of “communal table” events, of which the centerpiece is the Camden, N.J.-based company’s new Campbell’s Go line of pouched soups. The program is part of a broader marketing campaign aimed at igniting millennials’ passion for food, humor, music and gaming through original content and conversation.

    The original, authentic, exotic-influenced flavors in the Campbell’s Go line is intended to target the millennial generation, which has grown up during a time when Italian and Mexican are no longer considered ethnic foods. Busy consumers age 18 to 34, Campbell’s says, are looking for excitement and authenticity as well as convenience in their everyday eating.

    “Campbell’s Go soups represent the next generation of soups,” says Darren Serrao, Campbell’s VP of innovation and business development. “Our team traveled around the world, meeting with millennials and experiencing firsthand what excites them. Eating from food trucks, at their favorite neighborhood restaurants and in their own kitchens, we learned about their preference for bold, adventurous flavors in food.”

    The flavor lineup, rolled out last summer, encompasses Coconut Curry with Chicken and Shiitake Mushrooms, Moroccan Style Chicken with Chickpeas, Chicken and Quinoa with Poblano Chiles, Creamy Red Pepper with Smoked Gouda, Spicy Chorizo and Pulled Chicken with Black Beans, and Golden Lentil with Madras Curry. I got to taste most of these varieties; they deliver rich, complex flavors that should appeal to those seeking more adventurous options than historically could be found in the supermarket soup aisle.

    Communal Tables held in Chicago and New York City last month featured musicians, authors and journalists popular among millennials. A coordinated digital marketing campaign includes partnerships with BuzzFeed.com, Spotify and the creators of Angry Birds.

    Campbell’s has crafted an innovative marketing campaign that should inject new life into a very mature category, and other categories should keep an eye on it as they craft ways to drive more traffic to center store.

    Crop of the Crème (Filled)

    The news of Hostess Brands’ shutdown sent shoppers scurrying to their local grocers for a last supply of Twinkies, Ding-Dongs and other iconic snack cakes – the last, at least, until the brands are inevitably acquired by another maker and start hitting shelves again. But sales figures released by Spire LLC suggest that this sudden uptick in demand is most likely just a result of folks suddenly being jarred awake by products they took for granted.

    Spire charted the daily sales of Hostess products the week prior and the week after the bankruptcy announcement. On the day of the announcement, Hostess baked goods experienced a dramatic sales spike, with Twinkies earning a record-breaking one day sales reach of $49 per store, Spire reported.

    But overall, Hostess sales did not increase from the week before to the week after the announcement, because retailers ran out of product and could not meet the incredible demand from consumers.

    Sales had been flagging for some time, one of the reasons for the company’s demise, so it’s safe to assume consumers’ soaring appetites were due to the sudden realization that a piece of their childhood might suddenly be gone for good. But pity those who shelled out top dollar on eBay for the last batches – Twinkies will be back before long, let’s hope in the hands of a more dynamic and innovative brand marketer.

    Skin in the Game

    For we swine-ophiles, pork rinds - like bacon - go with everything, so what better accompaniment to football?

    Ohio-based pork rind giant Rudolph Foods has announced its Second Annual Pork Rind Appreciation Day campaign, to be celebrated on Feb. 3 – Super Bowl Sunday in New Orleans.

    Rudolph Foods will support Gridiron Greats, a nonprofit organization that provides medical and financial assistance to former NFL players in dire need. Now through the big game, 10 cents of every purchase of Rudolph-branded products will support the organization’s assistance fund (up to $10,000). The campaign is also matched with several opportunities for consumers to play along for chances to win football parties, pork rinds and other prizes.

    Rudolph is encouraging lovers of pork rinds to help make the campaign a success by visiting the brand's web site, where fans can watch videos from football hall of famers, join in on virtual Twitter chats, submit support to Gridiron Greats and even enter to win a Big Game party, complete with sandwiches, pork rinds, a new 50-inch plasma TV and a personalized video from a Gridiron Greats football legend.

    Happy Holidays!

    Jim Dudlicek is editor-in-chief of Progressive Grocer.

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