This just in: A.1. Steak Sauce is no longer steak sauce.
The Kraft Foods Group brand, which has been linked to red meat for five decades, is dropping steak from its name as part of a new campaign that plugs the sauce for everything from pork to tofu.
The effort, which is called "For Almost Everything. Almost," is by CP&B, Los Angeles and marks the brand's return to TV advertising after a five-year hiatus. The two TV spots (one above) go for laughs by featuring the peculiar habits of some people as well as their unique A.1. tastes.
The brand is also seeding a video on Facebook and YouTube that shows the brand breaking up with steak, while it "friends" fish tacos, crab legs, green beans and more. A.1. even gets a "like" from quinoa. The message: while A.1. still goes with steak, it is no longer a monogamous relationship.
Kraft might not have a choice but to broaden the sauce's appeal. Beef's popularity among animal proteins eaten at home has been declining for many years, while chicken consumption is rising, according to NPD Group food analyst Harry Balzer. Pork, which is the most popular, is flat, as are fish and turkey, he said. A.1.'s share of the table-sauce category was 1.7% in 2013, compared with 2.1% in 2005, according to Euromonitor International.
Even with those consumer trends in play, A.1.'s strategic shift is significant. After all, the brand has been labeled as a "steak sauce" for about five decades and some its previous attempts at diversity were pretty narrow, including plugging the sauce for hamburgers.
The new campaign actually returns the brand to its historic roots as a more-versatile table sauce. It was created in the 1820s by Henderson William Brand, a chef who served King George IV. In ensuing years it was known to be used on Welsh rarebit, eggs, sausages, in stews and more, according to Kraft.
The brand was registered as a trademark in the U.S. in 1895. One early version of the bottle shows A.1. labeled as "international sauce" suitable for "general use."
A.1. slapped the steak moniker on the bottle in the early 1960s, when the meat was riding a wave of popularity, said Cindy Halvorsen, A.1. brand manager for Kraft, which took control of A.1. in 1999. The new bottle design replaces the word "steak" with "original," although in smaller font on the side the label notes A.1. is "for steak, pork and chicken."
Through new research, the brand found that its heaviest users were already putting it on chicken, pork, shrimp and even French fries, Ms. Halvorsen said, adding that her A.1. food of choice is a baked potato.
Overall, steak still accounts for 65% of A.1. consumption. So Kraft hopes that removing steak from the label, along with the new ad campaign, will provide inspiration to consumers. The TV buy is broad, covering cable TV and the broadcast networks. A.1. is also launching an A.1. Pinterest page that will promote the sauce as a topping for a different food item every week.
As recently as 2012, A.1. did not get any measured media support from Kraft, according to Kantar Media. The company began putting some money behind the brand again last year -- $6.8 million in measured media -- with a digital and print campaign called "A.1. For Life" that targeted heavy users.
After that, "we saw enough information that gave us really good reason to believe that if we increased our investment to a national scale that we could drive relly good business results," Ms. Halvorsen said.
But quinoa? "You can put it on whatever you want," she said.