Like its peers-a rare group including Coca-Cola, Cheerios and Oreo-Jell-O has not only survived but thrived when the value of brand names is under attack.
For parent General Foods USA, the secret is regular advertising, promotions and product extensions designed to keep the name and concept as fresh as the day Jell-O was launched in 1897.
"Gelatin always brings out the child in us," says Sheryl Adkins-Green, category manager at GF. "It's fun, and people are always looking for ways to have fun with food."
GF makes a point of keeping the fun by regularly adding new flavors, most recently grape, watermelon and Berry Blue.
In addition, since 1990 when the company introduced Jell-O Jigglers-a more-concentrated form of Jell-O that can be cut into shapes-GF has refocused on family oriented "snacktivities." For instance, print ads show Berry Blue Jell-O used to make "aquariums" for gummy fish, while chocolate pudding is used to make a "dirt cup."
Now the brand is offering "Jurassic Park" Jigglers cutters in conjunction with the video release of Universal Pictures' hit movie. And GF soon will market a recipe for "prehistoric pudding."
GF spends $35 million annually to advertise Jell-O via Young & Rubicam, New York. It credits some of the brand's sales rebound to baby boomer moms' nostalgia for childhood favorites.
Jell-O also fits into key food industry trends: It's fat-free, is offered sugar-free (now accounting for about a quarter of sales), is easy and fast to make, and comes in convenient ready-to-eat forms.
This past summer, GF launched two varieties designed for ultimate convenience: a sugar-free line of Jell-O refrigerated snacks and a line of shelf-stable snack cups under the Kraft Handi-Snacks Gels name.
The new products help build demand for original Jell-O. The brand's dry mix sales totaled $177 million for the year ended June 19, while the brand registered another $80 million in refrigerated gelatin snack sales, according to Information Resources Inc.
That gives GF hope it can keep the Jell-O business growing into the brand's second century.