Jif Steps Up, Shows Heart During Trying Times

One year after transitioning from the “Choosy Moms Choose Jif” consumer marketing campaign to “That Jif’ing Good”, The J.M. Smucker Company’s Jif brand has been hard at work making sure shelves are stocked and giving consumers even more ways to love and use peanut butter with the launch of two new products.

During a September 24, 2020 webinar, Director of Brand Strategy for Jif Jake Calhoun (JC) chatted with National Peanut Board Senior Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer Ryan Lepicier (RL) about how Jif is faring during this time, what trends they see around the corner and how Smuckers is showing it’s a company with a big heart. Here’s an excerpt of that interview.

RL: You launched two new products this spring and summer, Jif No Added Sugar and Jif Squeeze. Were there particular aspects of the launch that went really well or that were more difficult because of the pandemic?

JC: We felt like getting these out to the market was the right thing to do. And I can’t tell you how hard we worked to get these out to the market, but we're just excited to see them on shelf today.

From what went really well, I'd say the manufacturing team, the operations team, and the innovation partners that I work with, there was no doubt that we were going to get these to market. That was fun to an extent. I'm sure a lot of you are dealing with the change as well, asking yourself every day, What's the right move to make here? What changes do we make? What could happen down the road? Consumers are shopping in different places than they were before [the pandemic]. A lot of people are buying their groceries online versus going into the store. We had to adjust really quickly as far as our marketing plan to make sure we've not only got the product on the shelf, but we're also driving really good awareness and trial of the product once it gets to the stores.

RL: Jake, I saw your presentation at the American Peanut Shellers’ pre-harvest meeting a few weeks ago, and you reported the peanut butter category is up about 19% March through July. What are you expecting through the rest of this year and into 2021 in terms of peanut butter?

JC: Things are looking good on the crop front. There are a lot of questions that we recognize. Things like hurricanes and [the pandemic] touch each of us, not only from a business perspective, but personally. Every day we're looking at what the next six months are going to look like? What the next 12 months are going to look like?

For peanuts specifically, a couple of things that I see. Obviously, [with] aflatoxin peanut supply was a bit constrained this year. And I think next year, without that constraint, there's some growth potential there for peanut butter. And then also the innovation. It's not just Jif that's come out with innovation this year. We're seeing really good growth in the innovation space from all brands in nut butters. There are a lot of good options in front of consumers. I look at 2021 and say, "You've got potential growth from supply, you've got growth in innovation, a lot of marketing investment in the marketplace." So good upside in 2021.

RL: A marketing question for you since you're a marketing guy. For years and years and years, we all saw the TV commercials, “Choosy Moms Choose Jif”, and sometimes dad was worked in, but now we have a much edgier campaign from Jif, That Jif'ing Good. Can you talk about the transformation and how consumers have responded?

JC: I grew up on Jif too, that's the campaign I'm used to and I have a lot of the same feelings and sentiments. Peanut butter is a category that people are really passionate about and have those memories of. When we looked at where the Jif brand was at, “Choosy Moms” resonated with a lot of consumers, but for some consumers, it didn’t . It helped us get to where we were, but we weren’t as confident that would take us where we needed to be. One of the biggest things that we know about Jif is the consumers who are passionate about it go to great lengths to get it. The great lengths, that's really the goal of the That Jif'ing Good campaign. Let's highlight the lengths that consumers would go to get Jif peanut butter

Aside from just the campaign and innovation, one of the things that we've talked a lot about as a team is just walking towards what the consumer already believes or is already doing. As an example of that, one of the things that we did last year is the Jif versus Gif debate on digital and social. It wasn't a conversation we started; it was a conversation that we were part of, but we added to that and got an incredible amount of conversation going as Jif started to participate more in the discussion.

RL: I want to talk a little bit about Uncrustables because I know they're hugely popular. You brought on a new manufacturing facility so you can increase the supply. Talk to us about what you're seeing with Uncrustables.

JC: We've opened up a new production facility in Longmont, Colorado a couple of years ago and we’re having great success with that. For Uncrustables, why are they so successful? The convenience is obvious. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich is the most popular sandwich during lunchtime and something the whole family loves. But even beyond that, the brand of Uncrustables has started to get a pretty big following too. It's not just the convenience anymore. It's not just the fact that PB&J's are popular, but Uncrustables have a really, really passionate brand following too.

RL: You’ve also shared that there’s an expected 94% growth in global plant protein by 2030. That's less than 10 years out. What does that mean for a company like yours? And do you see opportunities there for peanuts in particular?

JC: First of all, there are lot of upside for the industry. Clearly, peanuts play a big role within plant protein, and it means that consumer behavior is changing as well. A lot of countries today and in the past didn't necessarily have a taste for peanuts or even peanut butter, and that's starting to change as peanuts and peanut butter get out into those markets.

RL: I noticed Smucker's is a company with big heart. Is there anything you want to share with our group about how Smucker's is helping amid this time of need to make people's lives better?

JC: I think first and foremost is just the appreciation that we have for the people at our production facilities. The Smucker Company as a whole, not only Jif, Smucker across the board; we're also Folgers Coffee, Dunkin' Donuts coffee and retail stores, a number of pet food brands as well. The people at those facilities have done a phenomenal job. If you walked into a grocery store in March and April and saw empty shelves, there was a lot of focus that needed to be put on getting our core items back on the shelf. Balancing the safety of those employees and also praising them just for the work that they've done over the last couple of months to get product onto shelves so that people could find peanut butter and other products is so important.

Peanut butter in particular, there's something about it that it tastes great, but it's also an affordable protein. Accessibility to affordable proteins at a time like this, Ryan, I think is paramount.

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