Kraft Dinner Masala: Adapting a classic for the multicultural market

As our final excerpt from Migration Nation, a new book from Environics Research Group’s Robin Brown and Kathy Cheng, Marketing presents a research-based case study on how Kraft Foods found a way to make a Canadian classic into something relevant and appealing for for those who didn’t grow up with the iconic box in their pantries.

KD1There’s probably no more iconic Canadian packaged food brand than Kraft Dinner.

Like all top brands, it generates strong feelings among consumers. It’s associated not only with convenience but also with comfort, childhood, and a kind of small-town simplicity that it leverages in its promotions, which are “Canadian Hockeyville” in tone and style. Though Kraft Dinner has a devoted constituency in multi-generational, culturally homogeneous Canada, this constituency is a diminishing part of Canada’s demographic landscape.

Migrants haven’t grown up with the blue-and-orange box in their pantries, and in many cases they aren’t predisposed to the taste of original “KD.” According to research we conducted for PepsiCo in 2011, 64% of the general Canadian population find cheese as a flavour “very appealing.” But only 34% of Chinese Canadians agree (49% among second-generation Chinese Canadians born in Canada).

Among South Asian Canadians, the proportion who find cheese flavour appealing (57%) is closer to the general population but still lower than the national average. These differences in palate (rooted in ethnic culture), alongside a lack of familiarity with the brand and even a lack of knowledge about how to prepare the boxed pasta (resulting from a total lack of pre-migration experiences with Kraft Dinner), represented clear barriers for the growth of the KD brand in Migration Nation. Kraft needed to find a way to encourage migrants to make KD part of their Settlement Journey in Canada.

Kraft went about this in two ways. First, it launched campaigns targeting Chinese and South Asian Canadians. Spokespeople Oliver Li and Smita Chandra were hired to speak to their respective communities and promote Kraft products in the kitchen through TV ads and other media. Kraft also built websites that appealed to Chinese and South Asian preferences and palates, while incorporating Kraft products. One notable recipe on the South Asian–focused Kraft Ka Khana website was for “KD Masala”—a formula for preparing Kraft Dinner with ingredients like garam masala and ground coriander. KD Masala epitomizes the “adaptation strategy” whereby core products and brands are adapted for continued relevance in a changing demographic and socio-cultural landscape..

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