Kraft Heinz’s Philadelphia Cream Cheese brand is seeing whether a scent-diffusing merchandiser passes the smell test.
Select Jewel-Osco and Acme grocery stores in Chicago and New Jersey are rolling out the devices, which will pump the aroma of freshly baked cheesecake into the dairy aisle in an attempt to entice consumers to buy. Executives said they would be measuring the effectiveness of the merchandisers while considering a national rollout.
Aroma can be a powerful and evocative tool in brand-building—auto dealers have long recognized the value of the “new car scent,” for example—but it’s a relatively new strategy in packaged food. Ad agency McKinney called out aroma marketing as a future food trend in its annual Food Trends report, noting “today, [it’s] a PR stunt, but tomorrow this could be the next form of branding beyond sight or sound.”
For Philadelphia, exploring aroma was a natural extension of its branding platform, which is known as “You Just Don’t Taste It. You Feel It.” The platform was introduced by creative agency Gut last year.
“We want to show consumers how our immersive experience goes beyond just taste, and we saw this sensory activation as an exciting opportunity to bring that idea to life in a retail environment,” Keenan White, senior brand manager for Philadelphia, said in an email. “This is a first of its kind test for the brand as we think of new and interesting ways to invite consumers to dive into Philadelphia’s multisensorial brand experience.”
The scent is pumped into the air from a diffuser affixed to a rolling refrigerated case stocked with Philadelphia cream cheese and decorated for Easter. Consumers make about 500,000 cheesecakes with Philadelphia during the Easter season, according to Kraft Heinz estimates, and about 6.6 million bricks of the product are sold.
The scent came from a Canadian marketing agency called Icon, which specializes in experiential. Kraft Heinz worked with Icon via one of its in-store vendors, Integrated Merchandising Systems, to test out several different scents and ultimately landed on the cheesecake scent that’s now in-market.
Cheesecake—of which cream cheese is a major ingredient—smells of baked sugar and vanilla, sweet scents that Philadelphia would like consumers to associate more closely with its brand.
“We wanted to create a multisensorial, crave-worthy experience that immerses consumers in the deliciousness of freshly baked cheesecake,” White said. “By activating the sense of smell, which we know is inextricably linked to the sense of taste, our goal is to create an experience that drives desire for cheesecake and our brand, ultimately driving purchase of our product.”