Kinder Snacking’s VP of Marketing, Shalini Stansberry, on launching in a pandemic, taking a European fave to the United States and surpassing expectations
When Kinder Bueno was set to launch in the United States, they had everything going for them. A colossal TV campaign launching during the Oscars, an enticingly creative experiential activation, a market that hungry for a more sophisticated kind of snack and a product that had enjoyed three decades of success in its native Europe. It was, however, February 2020 and just over the horizon was the growing Covid-19 pandemic, which had sent much of Asia and Europe into lockdown .
It ought to have been a disaster for the Ferrero-owned chocolate, hazelnut and wafer snack. With office workers and students suddenly under stay-at-home orders around North America, workplace word of mouth was extinguished. But there was no confectionary catastrophe – in fact within the first year it had become a $100m brand and was being picked up as a trend-setting new product by the likes of IRI Worldwide and Trend Hunters. In part, this was because they’d been able to position the Kinder Bueno as a sort of dessert alternative for adults unable to dine out during lockdown, but it’s also because of broader shifts in taste.
Now launching its latest big ATL campaign in the United States, the brand is embracing a light and breezy optimism. Around the Block, part of the Life Gets Bueno platform, was developed by Publicis and envisions the experience of eating the snack as a splash of childish delight, but aimed at adults. It combines the upscale delight of the brand, a USP which is helping the brand standout in a market overloaded by garish colours and intense sweetness.
Shalini Stansberry is vice president of marketing, Kinder Snacking. She talks to LBB’s Laura Swinton about the strategy behind bringing this very European bar to America.
LBB> Kinder Bueno launched in 2019 in the US - what was the catalyst for the decision to launch in the USA?
Shalini > With our US research indicating that Kinder Bueno is highly differentiated to competitive offerings and appealing to the local palate, it made sense to proceed with the launch.
LBB> Withing the first year, Kinder Bueno had established itself as a $100m brand in the USA - what was the initial strategy that helped you achieve that?
Shalini> As part of our strategy, we celebrated the U.S. launch with our Kinder Bueno “Sweeteasy”, an interactive experience that brought to life the expectation-defying taste of Kinder Bueno that was inspired by the secretive discovery associated with a speakeasy.
Each element of the Sweeteasy experience was carefully crafted to mimic the individual layers of a Kinder Bueno bar and the activation provided attendees with a unique first look and taste of Kinder Bueno as it began to hit shelves in the U.S.
Launching in a unique way that’s fun but also ties the themes back to brand really helped catch consumers’ attention, with over 14 million households trying Kinder Bueno since then. Quick ramp up of retail distribution and strong consumer and shopper investment were additional factors.
LBB> And what are the other factors that helped buoy along that success?
Shalini> Since then, Kinder Bueno made its first U.S. television debut during the 92nd Oscars in February 2020. The 30-second commercial introduced our new tagline, “Life Gets Bueno” and marked the third consecutive year Ferrero advertised a Kinder brand during the award show, and the second time a Kinder product has made its U.S. television debut for Oscars audiences.
We’re thrilled to be able to expand on our success with our new “Around the Block” commercial, which is part of our ongoing “Life Gets Bueno” campaign to showcase how Kinder Bueno turns experiences from ordinary to extraordinary with one bite of the crispy, creamy chocolate bar.
LBB> What challenges did the pandemic bring for a brand that you were still establishing and how did you overcome them?
Shalini> A big challenge we faced was that we launched only at the front end and Convenience which were affected by social distancing and limited mobility during Covid. Despite these headwinds, Kinder Bueno was named in the top 10 of IRI’s 2020 Food and Beverage New Product Pacesetters report, which is an incredibly exciting accomplishment early on in our move to a new market.
That’s why we also brought Kinder Bueno’s expectation-defying taste experience to a perfectly sharable form with the launch of the new Kinder Bueno Mini in 2021 at the Sweets and Snacks Expo. Kinder Bueno Mini features the same sensational taste and texture of Kinder Bueno, just in mini format. Each package includes individually wrapped, bite-size pieces, making it easy to share with friends and family.
While many consumers in the US are working remotely, Kinder Bueno and Kinder Bueno Mini are both available at retailers nationwide for consumer purchase to enjoy at home and share with their families.
LBB> What sort of audiences are you finding that the brand is particularly resonating with?
Shalini> Recently, we found that consumers in the US have a demand for confectionary products that are great for sharing, which is why we launched Kinder Bueno Mini.
LBB> Impressively, the brand has turned up in the top 10 of IRI’s 2020 Food and Beverage New Produce Pacesetters - what is it in your mind that makes Kinder Bueno a 'pace setter' in terms of the North American market?
Shalini> Kinder Bueno is a unique and upscale offering that’s had incredible reception since launching nearly three years ago. It has a taste experience that defies expectations and has the power to elevate our everyday moments like no other chocolate bar brand. We’ve seen unprecedented growth since hitting the U.S. market and it’s part of the reason why we’re a 2020 pacesetter.
LBB> Every country has its own snacking cultures - so are there any aspects of snacking in the US that Kinder Bueno has really tapped into or is it bringing something quite new/tapping into more emerging cultural trends?
Shalini> Many consumers in the U.S. enjoy their daily routine with coffee and Kinder Bueno and this pairing makes for an extraordinary sip and treat experience to explore as an afternoon snack. Recently, we worked with Chef Nick DiGiovanni who helped consumers discover those memorable moments and make the day a little more special with Kinder Bueno and coffee.
LBB> And when you liaise with colleagues from other markets, how does Kinder Buenos strategy in the US feed into a broader global strategy, and to what extent is it tailored to the local tastes and culture?
Shalini> The US being the largest confections market in the world will play an important role in driving growth for Kinder Bueno globally. US consumers are trading up across food and beverage segments and chocolate is no exception.
Covid has accelerated this trend especially amongst home bound consumers who are missing out on desserts they would typically enjoy in restaurants. The sophisticated experience of Kinder Bueno makes it an enjoyable treat that can be enjoyed on the go or at home.
LBB> As someone from the UK, I’ve always associate Kinder Bueno as being quite a mainland Europe kind of a brand. Is that something you wanted to lean into for the launch in the US or not? Why?
Shalini> The beauty of Kinder Bueno is it has broad appeal thanks to its well-balanced flavour profile and multi-layered experience. We want the experience to speak for itself rather than lean on the brand’s European heritage.
LBB> How long have you been working with Publicis and what have they brought to Kinder Bueno's growth as a brand?
Shalini> Kinder has been working with Publicis since the launch of Kinder Joy. They’ve consistently brought high performing creative to both Kinder Joy and Kinder Bueno, allowing both brands to breakthrough in a cluttered category.
LBB> How does the platform, Life Gets Bueno, take the brand forward in the US?
Shalini> From the start of our ongoing Life Gets Bueno campaign, we’ve seen incredible growth and are already established as a $100 million brand after our first year. We’re looking forward to keeping the momentum going in the US market.
LBB> The new campaign really feels like it's harnessing a sense of optimism which I think people are really yearning for after the past two years - how much did these considerations play in to your strategy?
Shalini> We wanted to kick the new year off with a positive continuation of our “Life Gets Bueno” campaign and it does have an optimistic tone. The new 30second commercial spot, “Around the Block,” captures the wow effect that Kinder Bueno’s multi-sensorial chocolate bar has on everyday experiences and how it has the power to elevate everyday moments.
LBB> And what are your hopes and goals for the brand this year?
Shalini> To continue to build upon a successful launch by getting more consumers to try the brand.