Wednesday, May 4

Marketing Public Relations: Truvia

SteviaOn the heels of becoming the number two sugar substitute in America, with a 12.8 percent share of the retail sugar substitute category, Truvia released a "study" confirming that "U.S. moms are already buying (or interested in buying) products made with the Truvia® brand for the whole family, including their kids."

Yes, there is some oddity in the language. But let's lay the groundwork.

The "study" was a survey (conducted by the company) of 2,417 primary grocery shoppers, U.S. moms ages 18-59 with children ages 1-18 in the household. It was fielded in October 2010. According to the findings:

When moms were asked about potential products that could be made with the Truvia® brand in categories such as dairy, ready-to-eat cereal, confections, and beverages, the findings were similar across all product categories (sic):

• Half to two-thirds of moms who are current product purchasers in these categories are interested in products made with the Truvia® brand.
• These moms also indicated they would purchase these products for the entire family, including the kids. 90% of moms would purchase juice drinks and 89% would purchase ready-to-eat cereal made with the Truvia® brand for their kids.
• Even moms who currently don't buy products in certain categories were interested in buying products made with the Truvia® brand and said they would buy these products for the entire family.

The intent of a dual-pupose release and why they don't always work.

Since being introduced to the market, Truvia faced some skepticism as a sweetener because of the chemistry and unconfirmed reports that the plants are genetically modified.

In general, genetically modified foods are accepted in the United States more than most countries in the world. But what stands out about this one, is the amount of attention being given to the side effects. (Proponents argue that it is on par with any other food allergies typical in a large public.)

Whether there is any substance to either claim is up to science to decide. My interest lies in whether the public relations efforts of Truvia are on par or have they turned a corner. In this case, the story is that Truvia has surpassed Merisant's Equal® (aspartame) for the past 16 months and the 52-year-old brand Cumberland's Sweet'N Low® for the past 12 weeks. (Source: ACNielsen Food/Drug/Mass+Wal-Mart, 4 weeks ending 3/19/11.)

So, why would Truvia mar the facts with vague pullouts from a survey, further complicating the communication by making statements such as "half to two-thirds?" They obviously know what the numbers are. They just didn't release them. If anything, the release makes them more suspect because the public relations and marketing teams are either beating the numbers into submission or attempting to oversell the study.

Five tips for releasing a study, especially without a third party.

• Always include the raw numbers. While it's generally acceptable to round in the release (almost half, more than half, etc.), the difference between roughly 1,200 and 2,000 of 2,400 is a huge discrepancy.
• Always include some methodology. In this case, giving the the readers some indication of the questions asked and/or whether or not these mothers had knowledge of the possible side effects would be helpful.
• Avoid vagueness. According to the writing, the company is bullish that "even" moms who don't buy certain products (dairy, cereal, confections, or beverages) are interested in the product.
• Make it clear that the full study is available; include a direct link to the study where possible. In this case the company merely pointed to the website, which did not include the release along with its listings.
• Never oversell a study. If the facts from the study are solid, let the journalists draw their own conclusions, keeping any "guidance" confined to the quotes. True, understaffed publications aren't likely to investigate nowadays but it still pays to pretend they might.

The entire release is bizarre, but no more bizarre than the entire story revolving around Truvia. There are two odd story tracks revolving around the slick award-winning campaign.

TruviaThe first is that Truvia is a success story. Truvia rebiana is already used as an ingredient in over 30 food and beverage products today, including Glaceau Vitaminwater Zero, YoCrunch 100 Calorie Packs, Kraft Crystal Light Pure, and Minute Maid Premium Pomegranate Tea. It also seems the release was embargoed as the company had pitched several publications (without the study), with Fast Company picking it up. (Truvia's Test: Can Diet Sweeteners Go Natural?) Along with this success story is the possible conspiracy theory of why the primary plant was banned from the U.S.

And then there is the other story. While the markers of Truvia have made efforts to become more transparent, it is manufactured by Cargill, which made the toxic ten list in 2008 despite some heavy-handed greenwashing on the Truvia site (the company pledges to make it better by 25 to 50 percent by 2015). Of course, it is also odd the FDA had no interest in allowing Truvia in the U.S. market until it teamed with Coca-Cola.

The net sum is that Truvia has had to participate in significant public relations efforts since deciding to make a play for the U.S. market. It has obviously won many of those battles, even if the FDA hasn't "approved" the product (it filed a letter of no opposition to rebiana, which are the leaves of the banned stevia plant). So why would it punt with an ill-conceived press release?

The only plausible answer is that the company is feeling some push back after some early success in the market. Specifically, some manufacturers aren't ready to recreate their recipes with Truvia, and the excuse they kick back at Cargill is that moms haven't approved it nor are they demanding it. And, despite the spinning, the survey seems to confirm it.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 

Blog Archive

Google+ Followers

by Rich Becker Copyright © 2010 Designed by Bie Blogger Template