“We recognized this was a great business opportunity,” said Kelsey Rice, senior brand communications manager at Velveeta.
Velveeta wanted to make a big swing, not just to increase sales, but to establish itself as part of the culture. “We believe Velveeta is an iconic brand, and it should be seen and seen as such,” she said.
To change her image, Velveeta had to change the way she talks about herself.
That means fewer ads for affordable, gooey cheese, and more marketing stunts like cheese-scented nail polish and expensive Velveeta martinis.
A cheese star is born
When asked about the brand’s history, a representative pointed to a 2005 book published by Kraft, titled “The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Cheese,” which states that Kraft introduced Velveeta in 1928, a year after funding research at Rutgers University on a processed cheese. development.
In the late 1920s, Kraft was calling Velveeta a hit.
“Never in the history of our company have we offered a cheese product to the market that was so immediately successful as Velveeta,” said a 1929 advertisement aimed at retailers. “It seems like a perfect product.”
Not only was Velveeta “delicious” and “healthy,” the ad continued, but it spread “like butter” and melted easily when cooked.
Brand marketing has evolved with the times. A 1940s advertisement referred to Velveeta as a clever wartime ingredient, offering a recipe for Velveeta Pudding with Spanish Sauce, “a hearty main course that saves you ration points”.
An advertisement from the 1950s suggested to young mothers that “while you are watching your weight and also trying to get the necessary nutrient intake from milk, make your Velveeta desserts and fresh fruit”.
Over the following decades, American consumption of processed cheese continued to rise. In 1996, it peaked at 8.75 pounds per capita consumption, according to the USDA. Then things took a turn.
Not a food, but a product
Two decades ago, consumption began to fall. People were concerned about the health effects of highly processed foods and started eating more natural cheese.
Even changing its marketing approach, Velveeta has stuck to a few clear messages. The product is easy to handle. It’s affordable — Walmart’s website shows a 32-ounce package of Velveeta on sale for around $6.50. And above all, it can melt.
Years after processed cheese hit the market, it still melts better than natural cheeses like cheddar, noted Chad Galer, vice president of food safety and product research at Dairy Management Inc., a dairy trade association. Processed cheese contains ingredients that allow it to melt into a sort of gel when heated, he explained. When the natural cheese heats up, the oil oozes out, giving it that globular texture.
“We try to melt natural cheese like Velveeta,” Galer said. “But we haven’t unlocked it yet.”
This unique fusion quality has been Velveeta’s advertising goal for most of its life, Rice said. Now he is trying something new.
Velveeta nail polish and martinis
In 2018, Velveeta’s sales fell about 4.5% to $1.1 billion from a year earlier, according to IRI. In 2019, sales fell again – by around 2.4%.
But, during the pandemic, Velveeta has benefited from people’s interest in comfort foods and easy-to-cook meals. In 2020, sales of Velveeta jumped nearly 24%.
Then came the waterfalls.
Bad reviews don’t really matter to Velveeta, who is often the butt of the joke.
“Overall, we’re really happy with how the world has welcomed Velveeta Veltini,” Rice said. The most important thing is that people think back to Velveeta.
When brands make flashy marketing moves, “people pay attention,” said Bob Samples, executive-in-residence at Western Michigan University, where he teaches food and consumer goods marketing students. “They go to the store, they remember the name, they buy it.”
So far, Velveeta appears to be retaining that pandemic momentum. After falling 1.1% in 2021, sales rose 3.2% through July this year, according to IRI.
Also, new ad campaign or not, people know what they are getting when they buy Velveeta.
“People know what to expect,” Samples said. There is a “feeling of comfort that goes with it”.