Wednesday, January 3, 2018

"Outfoxed by Small-Batch Upstarts, Unilever Decides to Imitate Them"

WSJ:

Unilever says the changes have helped speed up its reactions to new threats and opportunities. The death of Thailand’s king in October 2016 triggered a year-long period of mourning there. Unilever’s Thai unit launched Breeze Black, a detergent formulated for black clothes, in 12 weeks—about a quarter of the usual launch time for a new product.

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In some other key battles, Unilever is being outfoxed. Halo Top, a privately held low-sugar, high-protein ice cream, exploded from a kitchen experiment seven years ago to become a household name. When the Los Angeles-based brand became America’s best-selling ice-cream pint last year, executives at Unilever’s premium brand, Ben & Jerry’s, were stunned.

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Because of that branding, Unilever felt Ben & Jerry’s couldn’t take a run directly at Halo Top, whose magic ingredient and sweetening agent is sugar alcohol, the former executive said.

Instead, Unilever turned to its lower-priced Breyers brand, and rolled out an answer over the summer: Breyers Delights uses sugar alcohol, too, and mimics Halo Top’s packaging—splashing its calorie and protein content in big numbers on the front of cartons. But the new product hasn’t yet done much to shore up Breyers’ position.