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Kraft foods hit the highway last week with the Kraft Country Tour Cookhouse, its largest-ever traveling kitchen.

The 46-foot vehicle is traveling in conjunction with Kraft's annual Country Tour concert, this year bringing Vince Gill to 80 cities through Sept. 10.

The food marketer is building on last year's Kraft Country Cookin' Fest, a free, daylong sampling and marketing festival the company hosted near the venues of nine concerts on the '96 80-city tour.

For '97, Kraft decided to take the sampling festival on the road, getting closer to consumers in retail shopping locations by parking its truck at major supermarkets.


Dozens of brands from Kraft's nine consumer product divisions will participate in the effort, which emphasizes easy-to-prepare foods.

The Cookhouse will visit 21 cities on the tour route, among them San Francisco; Phoenix; Fort Worth, Texas; Minneapolis; Boston; Pensacola, Fla.; and Westbury, N.Y.

It will move among various supermarkets and retail locations for one week before the concert in each city.

"We had great response at last year's festivals at the concert sites. But we realize it's even more relevant to be near retailers, to affect sales," said Nikol Osborn, Kraft's event marketing manager.

Although the promotion centers on country music, the new approach of visiting retail locations will also reach a wider audience beyond country fans, Ms. Osborn said.

"It's an unusual approach to entertain consumers while interacting with Kraft's brands in their communities and when they're grocery shopping," she said.

The vehicle, designed and staffed by GMR Marketing, Brookfield, Wis., will park in the lots of high-traffic areas, where consumers will be invited to sample products and recipes created for the tour, take part in contests and hear classic Vince Gill and other country hits.

Kraft expects to dispense 150,000 samples including Country Time's Lem'n Berry Sippers, Velveeta Cheesy Chili Dip, Tombstone Oven Rising Crust pizza, Maxwell House Italian Espresso Road coffee and Kraft Mexican Singles Quesadillas.

The truck also features a broadcast sound stage, which will be used to entertain consumers with local radio program hosts and personalities.


At each stop, Kraft will give away copies of an exclusive compact disc featuring Vince Gill songs, and consumers can participate in a sweepstakes to win a guitar autographed by the star. The CD is also available for $4.99 through various on-pack and in-pack offers.

Consumers will receive a copy of "Recipes From the Road," featuring original dishes made with Kraft brands, and coupons. A van offering ready-to-eat packaged Kraft product samples will accompany the main vehicle.

Ms. Osborn would not disclose whether Kraft intends to continue the mobile marketing effort when the concert tour concludes.

"Road tours promoting all our brands fit our corporate objectives," she said, "but we haven't made commitments to future mobile tours like this."

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