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The bacon frenzy has finally made it to Philadelphia -- cream cheese that is, which is rolling out a new variety flavored with the pork product.
It seems like a no-brainer for Kraft Foods Group to fuse its Philadelphia and Oscar Mayer brands into one product. But putting bacon in cream cheese is apparently a bit harder than it sounds. "Bacon is a hard flavor to get just right," said Chris Hjorth, senior director for Philadelphia, noting that the brand wanted to ensure the "bacon notes" came through "loud and clear," but that they were also balanced with the cream cheese. The product, which contains bits of bacon, took about 18 months to develop.
The spread attempts to seize on America's bacon fixation, while continuing the brand's recent push into more flavors. "Cream cheese plays in the morning occasion primarily. Putting together Philadelphia and bacon was a perfect match," Ms. Hjorth said.
The launch comes as Kraft continues to update the 134-year old Philadelphia brand with more varieties, packaging changes and farm-laden marketing. The new campaign, which debuted last year, is called "The Philadelphia Standard," and touts the product as moving from "farm to fridge in six days."
Previously, Philadelphia had been running campaigns that were more emotional and more focused on cooking usages, Ms. Hjorth said. The new work is meant to explain "what was behind our quality." The cooking push had included a product launched in 2011 called Philadelphia Cooking Creme that has since been discontinued.
Philadelphia's ad agency is Roberts & Langer DDB of New York. The bacon line will get dedicated marketing support beginning next year, she said.
Kraft has also updated Philadelphia's packaging, putting the spread in oval tubs, rather than circular ones. The narrower oval tubs allow stores to pack more product on shelves. Also, they don't spin around like the circular ones did, which became a problem because the front-of-pack was not always front-facing.
This year, the brand said it added more "real fruits and vegetables" to its spreads. And Philly continues to introduce more flavors, including spicy jalapeno, chipotle and brown sugar and cinnamon. The brand now comes in a total of 35 varieties.
"Consumers are yearning for more-flavorful options to go on their bagel or piece of toast," Ms. Hjorth said, noting that some consumers are using cream cheese as a sandwich spread. "It's being used with turkey a lot," she added. Flavors now account for between 20% to 30% of the brand's total sales, and "it's what's driving our growth," she said.
Philadelphia dominates the soft cream-cheese category with nearly 63% market share, ahead of private label brands, which control 26% of the market, according to IRI. Philadelphia's sales grew by 3.6% in the 52 weeks ending Sept. 7 to $414 million. That trailed category-wide growth of 5.8%.
Asked about those trends, Ms. Hjorth said Philadelphia sales are "improving this year" as the company puts more investment behind the brand. Kraft spent $34 million on measured media on Philadelphia in 2013, according to Kantar Media.