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April 9, 2001

By Stephanie Thompson

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Hormel Foods is working hard to add more sizzle to the pork.

Once happy to be an unbranded supplier of pork parts, the company is putting

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more emphasis on the branded packaged meat products that now out sell its unbranded lines. Later this month it will launch a $30 million umbrella campaign billing its meats as "Today's Flavor" in a series of homey and romantic ads.

The large-scale effort, from longtime shop Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, Minneapolis, speaks to Hormel's growing emphasis on advertising and consumer marketing.

The new Hormel campaign uses a single voice to talk to women ages 25 to 54 about how Hormel meats bring more flavor to any eating experience, said Wes Crawford, senior vice president, BBDO.

"In these days of brand proliferation, consumers can't handle a multitude of trademarks in one category, so we wanted to simplify it for them and show how we're not just doing the best job in ham or pepperoni, but across a whole spectrum of meat products," he said.

TV spots in 23 markets
A TV campaign that breaks in 23 spot markets April 23 includes three initial executions portraying how single brands fit into consumers' daily rituals. In "Sunday," a voice-over talks about Sunday being a day for naps, watering the lawn and for eating Always Tender pork while photography of consumers engaging in such activities flash across the screen.

The spot ends by saying no matter what day it is, "Today's Flavor, Hormel." Other spots focus on Hormel Pepperoni and Hormel Fully Cooked Beef Roast. A print campaign takes a similar tack, with ads touting Hormel products such as Hormel Cure 81 ham, Hormel bacon and Hormel deli meats.

Credit Suisse First Boston analyst Dave Nelson said, "The meat case is the final frontier of branding in the food industry," and that Hormel seems to be "out-innovating and out-executing" the competition.

CEO 'not a meathead'
Part of the reason for that, he said, is that Hormel President-CEO Joel Johnson is "not a meathead." With a career built on experience at General Foods Corp. and later Kraft Foods heading up its Oscar Mayer business, Mr. Johnson has a package goods mentality.

"I was used to talking to Hormel about slaughter and carcasses, and [when he came to Hormel in 1991] Joel wanted to show me his new turkey commercial," Mr. Nelson said.

Joe Swedberg, vice president-marketing of Hormel's meat products group, agrees Mr. Johnson's true passion is the marketing side of the business. "Joel has challenged us and BBDO to take [our advertising] to new levels," he said, noting that Hormel's top dog even looks at final creative.

Spending on Hormel meat brand campaigns last year totaled roughly $17 million, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. Among them was the first national effort for Always Tender fresh pork, which used the tagline, "Pork you can cut with a fork."

While Hormel is the clear leader in the value-added meats arena with convenience-oriented offerings such as Hormel Always Tender pork and beef items and its Hormel Fully Cooked Entrees, others are clamoring to build their own brands.

ConAgra Foods, itself hoping to climb out of its commodity role, is seeking an agency to handle an estimated $25 million campaign for its ConAgra Beef Co., while pork producer Smithfield Foods and beef and pork processor IBP are moving toward consumer-friendly, branded initiatives. Tyson Foods, which has been successful at building its chicken business with convenience-oriented branded products, recently pulled out of a deal to buy IBP, which it hoped would expand its branding efforts beyond chicken.

Copyright April 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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