House Foods Sold Japanese Curry to Hispanics
Period: July - September 1999
America is a subsidiary of House Foods Corporation, a Japanese packaged
foods company which sells a variety of products in the U.S. including
seasonings, gelatins, tofu and Japanese style curry. Except for tofu,
most of their products are sold primarily in small Asian specialty stores.
In an effort to grow volume, House Foods approached cruz/kravetz:IDEAS
to look into the feasibility of launching Java Curry, a Japanese style
curry into the Hispanic market in Los Angeles.
in-home product placement and trial and follow-up phone interviews indicated
that Hispanics loved the taste of the product. The spicy flavor was especially
appealing and compared favorably with Mexican style Mole. Further, it
was found that Java Currys "bouillon cube" formulation aligned with
the already high incidence of food flavoring and spice usage. In fact,
Java Curry, is identical to bouillon cubes in consistency so the product
felt familiar to participants. However, reactions to the product packaging
were negative. Research indicated that Hispanics found the existing packaging
and product shot unappealing and Java Curry, the existing name, was meaningless
to them. In addition, respondents also said that the packaging did not
provide much information about the product.
challenge for cruz/kravetz:IDEAS was to recommend a new name and provide
an assessment and recommendations for a package redesign. Focus groups
were again conducted to test various names and packaging designs. As a
result the product was introduced to the Hispanic market as "House Curry
Casero" and the new packaging was considered more appealing because among
other things, the food looked better and it included more product information
and graphically explained its preparation. However; the biggest challenges
were yet to come. First, the product was new and manufactured by an unfamiliar
company. Until then, the product had only been sold through Asian specialty
stores. Consequently, neither retailers nor consumers were familiar with
it. Second, consumers would be limited in their ability to include it
in their cooking routines. Third, the budget was limited, therefore, TV
was not an option. Both media and creative were challenged to develop
an effective campaign that would maximize a budget under $250,000.
Hispanic Females 18-49, with children
Primary shopper in the household
Cook from scratch
Heavy users of seasonings, spices and
were selected as the target due to their importance in the Los Angeles
market. Evidence of their importance is reflected in the overall media
ratings where Spanish language radio and TV stations have consistently
been in the top ratings for the last few years. In addition more than
38.7% of the total population in the Los Angeles DMA is Hispanic, totaling
6.3 million. In fact approximately 21% of all Hispanics in the U.S. live
in the Los Angeles DMA. The target was narrowed to Hispanic females because
it was deemed important to reach the person who was most influential in
making purchases and preparing meals for the Hispanic family.
and promotions program was developed with a twofold purpose. First, the
program was meant to generate awareness and trial for the product, and
second, but more importantly, it was designed to leverage shelf space
through in-store demos, point of sale, FSIs, coupon handouts, and retailer-specific
tags and radio remotes. Recipe brochures were developed and designed to
put the product into the context of Hispanic cooking styles and to familiarize
and make the consumer comfortable with the product. The media buy was
leveraged to extend the products exposure through on-air taste testing
and through taste testing with food editors at newspapers like La Opinion,
which ended up writing a whole editorial piece on the product and the
in the LA area tend to shop in small, independent stores as well as chain
retailers, but we knew that without a lot of money, it would be almost
impossible to get distribution in the chains from the beginning so we
targeted independent retailers with at least 50% Hispanic customer base
first. This was a crucial factor in the strategy because it would allow
us to prove that the product would sell so we could then leverage the
success to obtain distribution in the large retail chains.
in-store research measurement vehicles which track store sales for larger
chains do not cover many independent grocery stores it was determined
that results were to be measured primarily through distribution--gains
in the total number of stores selling the product. Secondary measures
of success would include total sampling activity, sales feedback and coupon
redemption. In fact, sampling and couponing would also be used strategically
to secure product distribution and would be aligned with media flight
In an ideal situation, television would have been considered the best
vehicle to introduce this product because it serves as a visual medium
to introduce an unfamiliar product. With a budget of under $250,000 TV
was not a viable option. The media campaign lasted five weeks and supported
the initial launch consisting of radio and ROPs which dropped in
local Spanish newspapers. Added value was negotiated with radio stations
and included on-air tastings, remotes, advertorials featuring House Curry
Casero recipes and 10 second banners which sponsored radio segments such
as Chef Parra, who provided daily recipes on-air.
In-store activity was crucial in the products success for several
reasons. First it served as leverage to gain in-store access. This is
especially important for a brand like House Curry Casero which is manufactured
by a company that is not well known in the U.S., though it has numerous
strong brands in Japan. In-store demos served to encourage stores to stock
the product. Second, it allowed customers to sample the product and ask
questions about the product. Incentives such as savings coupons and gifts
with purchase were also used to drive sales. Point of sale material in
the form of posters and danglers was designed to support the in-store
activity. Recipes using House Curry Casero were customized to meet the
preferences and cooking styles of the Hispanic market.
The biggest barrier House Curry Casero needed to overcome was
that consumers were not familiar with the product nor did they know how
to use/prepare it. Communications strategy needed to focus on communicating
taste appeal of the product and its uses. The strategy needed to let customers
House Curry Casero tastes great.
The family would love it.
insight was that Hispanics generally do not want to sacrifice home made
taste when using an easy to make product. Hispanic women cook more often
than other segments and take great pride in preparing homemade meals and
taking care of and pleasing their families. The fact that the product
was easy to make would therefore be a secondary incentive and not the
primary purchase motivator. The communication needed to convince Hispanic
consumers to try something new and convince them that House Curry Casero
was a familiar flavor with an exotic touch.
It was important
for the advertising to convey taste appeal and inform consumers about
House Curry Casero and product preparation and serving instructions. The
key ideas communicated were as follows:
The product has a great homemade taste
and contains a delicious blend of spices.
Your whole family will love it.
Its easy to prepare with meat,
chicken or fish and your favorite vegetables.
It comes in two varieties: Mild (Sazonado)
and Hot (Picosito).
Distribution in 50 independent stores
in July and August.
Distribution in 80 Food 4 Less stores
as of September 1999.
Vons and Ralphs have now agreed to carry
the product, beginning November, 1999.
1,944 packages were sold just during
in-store sampling activity
1999 to September 1999.
Client has increased marketing budget
to include TV by the end of the year.