Section 4 - Case Studies
Tecate Campaign
Paragon Cable
House Foods

Lincoln Mercury
El Pollo Loco
La Opinion
Dinero Seguro
Harris Bank


Case Study: How House Foods Sold Japanese Curry to Hispanics

Campaign Period: July - September 1999

House Foods 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.

Planning Research
Focus groups, 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 Curry’s "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.

The Challenge
The initial 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.

Target Audience

Hispanic Females 18-49, with children
Primary shopper in the household
Cook from scratch
Heavy users of seasonings, spices and bouillon cube/powder
based product.

Hispanics 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.

Marketing Strategy
An advertising 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 product’s 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 recipes.

Distribution Strategy
Hispanics 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.

Because 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 dates.

Program Elements

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 ROP’s 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 Sampling
In-store activity was crucial in the product’s 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.

Communication Strategy
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 know that:

House Curry Casero tastes great.
The family would love it.

A key 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.
It’s easy to prepare with meat, chicken or fish and your favorite vegetables.
It comes in two varieties: Mild (Sazonado) and Hot (Picosito).

Evidence Of Results

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
July 1999 to September 1999.
Client has increased marketing budget to include TV by the end of the year.



























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© 2002 Isabel Valdés - To contact the author, email: or call (650) 322-1922
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