Del Monte’s Recession Pitch: Canned Food

Del Monte Foods chose the right time to unleash the largest marketing push behind its canned fruits and vegetables in 10 years. New ads center on a value message that tells consumers if they’re looking to stretch their food dollars, Del Monte’s canned goods are the way to go.
The campaign, which began with a TV spot breaking last night on cable networks as well as local television markets, goes after cash-strapped consumers who want to eat healthily and on a budget, per Del Monte. Pittsburgh-based Smith Brothers handles.
“Stretch Your Dollar,” as the campaign is called, “reminds consumers of the nutrition, taste and value of our products and gives them solutions that make the most of their time and budgets,” said Del Monte CMO Bill Pearce. Since his appointment last May, Del Monte has been spending big, including $20 million on an effort in November called “Fruit Undressed,” also via Smith Brothers.
Television spots stress the advantage of buying canned products over fresh or frozen products. One ad for Del Monte’s Fresh Cut Whole Kernel Corn contrasts a slim ear of corn with the amount one gets when buying the canned product. “Get a whole lot more. For the same golden price,” the voiceover says.
Del Monte, which, up until now, has been focused on in-store marketing behind its fruits and vegetables business, is spending $2 million on the effort this spring and another $13 million in September. The company spent only $5 million in 2008 advertising its shelf-stable fruits and vegetables.
Ads are now running in regional cable markets in Buffalo, N.Y., Kansas City, Kan., and Louisville, Ky. The campaign will expand with TV, print and online ( elements to media outlets like A&E, ABC Family, Food Network, Parade magazine and and this fall.
Like other food makers, Del Monte is using the economic downturn as an opportunity to reach consumers. Pearce said company research showed that Del Monte was a brand consumers know and trust, but it had to overcome the notion of not being as “fresh” as frozen or store produce.
“The accepted consumer belief was that [canned goods] couldn’t be as good,” Pearce said. “[But] as it’s picked at the peak of freshness and often prepared and canned within the same day, you get the best of both worlds.”
Phil Lempert, an industry analyst and supermarket “guru,” said the campaign taps into consumer behavior that’s been consistent since the economy worsened. Shoppers are switching from fresh food to more affordable options, he said, and value has displaced freshness in categories ranging from produce to meats.