In 2018, Velveeta sales fell about 4.5% to $1.1 billion from the year before, according to IRI. In 2019, sales fell again — by about 2.4%.
But, during the pandemic, Velveeta benefited from people’s interest in comfort foods and easy-to-cook meals. In 2020, Velveeta sales surged by nearly 24%.
To take advantage of that movement, the brand developed a new identity. In Rice’s words, “Velveeta exists to make outrageous pleasure a way of life.” The brand updated its logo and launched a new ad campaign, La Dolce Velveeta, to support the change.
Then came the stunts.
In June, Velveeta started selling a cheese-scented nail polish. More recently it unveiled the Veltini — a Velveeta martini made with cheese-infused vodka and sold at some restaurants, or online.
The nail polish got some good reviews. The Veltini… not so much.
One Washington Post writer who ordered the drink at a restaurant said it looked “like a deranged cheese monster, with olives as beady eyes and a dripping Velveeta cheese rim as a lopsided mouth.” The Today Show’s Hoda Kotb tried it on air, reluctantly, and was not a fan. “Yuck,” she said, “No, girl, no.” Her co-host, Jenna Bush Hager, said it wasn’t bad.
Bad reviews don’t really matter for Velveeta, which is often the butt of the joke.
“Overall, we’re really pleased with the way the world has received the Velveeta Veltini,” said Rice. The most important thing is to get people to think about Velveeta again.
When brands make splashy marketing moves, “people pay attention,” said Bob Samples, executive-in-residence at Western Michigan University, where he teaches students about food and consumer goods marketing. “They go to the store, they remember the name, they buy it.”
So far, Velveeta seems to be holding onto that pandemic boost. After dipping 1.1% in 2021, sales are up 3.2% through July of this year, according to IRI.
The way Samples sees it, Velveeta went from benefiting from pandemic trends to the high inflationary environment. Because Velveeta has a long shelf life, it may be more appealing now, as people try to avoid food waste to save money, he said.
Plus, new ad campaign or not, people know what they’re getting when they buy Velveeta.
“People know what to expect,” Samples said. There’s a “comfort feeling that goes with that.”
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