Food Innovation

Concocted to last: Brands that stand the test of time

September 9, 2017

One of my favorite cereals, Cheerios, has been around since 1941. Like Cheerios, there are a number of food and beverage products that have stood the test of time — Jim Beam (since 1795!), Jell-O, Pepsi-Cola, Coca-Cola, and Kellogg’s Raisin Bran has been around for over 70 years and ranks as one of the top 10 breakfast cereals. But there are many, many products that have simply fallen flat.

In a recent post, we talked about some pretty staggering food industry statistics. Of the roughly 20,000 new food and beverage products introduced annually, a mere 15 percent stay on the market for at least two years. The rest quickly encounter a rather tragic fate.


The International Food Information Council says that taste is the number one driver of purchase decisions. Of course, no matter how amazing a food tastes and no matter how much it resonates with consumers’ needs, you can’t sell it if people don’t know about it. Good branding and marketing is essential. In the end, people buy not just the product but the packaging too — and by “packaging” I mean the emotions, memories and experiences associated with the product, as well as the wrapper and the label. They are, in effect, buying a brand.

Our perception of taste is influenced by our emotions, memories and experiences.

Wrapped up in this “package” is our perception of taste, influenced by our emotions, memories and experiences. My love of Cheerios could very well be because, when I’ve got a bowl of them in front of me, I am six years old again, sitting beside my brother at our black-trimmed dining table, my mom in the kitchen packing our lunches for school. My world is at peace.

Don’t mess with a good thing

This interplay of taste and emotions, memories and experiences might well have been what led to the outcry from Coca-Cola (Coke) consumers, when in 1985, the Coca-Cola Company changed the taste of Coke. Unhappy with the new formula, consumers protested loudly with over 40,000 phone calls and letters to the company and some people even taking to the streets to publicly protest. Changing the flavor of the soda meant, for many customers, severing a relationship they had with “their” brand.

Changing the flavor of the soda meant, for many customers, severing a relationship they had with “their” brand.

Within three months, Coke Classic was revived and peace was restored in cola land. And there was an unexpected bonus for the Coca-Cola Company — after the return of Coke Classic, sales climbed. The customer complaints had become an incredibly valuable consumer insight. Today, Coke is the fifth most valuable brand, according to Forbes.

A package deal

We love certain foods and brands because of the way they make us feel. Are you eating that cheesecake because it reminds you of the one Grandma used to make for your birthday every year? Does your morning coffee taste good only if you’re drinking it from your favorite mug? Mine sure does.

Killer cheesecake recipe here.

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