Baby food for single adults… Gerber’s product extension disaster!

Gerber are an American producer of baby food. They have a long history, dating back to 1927 and are very well known in the sector. Currently owned by Nestle, they now offer more than 190 products in 80 countries worldwide.

But this marketing fail happened in 1974 – when they made the decision to follow a brand extension strategy – and use its well developed skill in making strained and pureed food… for young, single adults.

They wanted to target college students and young adults living alone for the first time, with simple meals for one.

On offer from Gerber was Beef Burgundy and Blueberry Delight, among a few other choice selections. These small, pureed servings were also sold in similar sized jars as the baby food… and unsurprisingly, didn’t catch the imagination of their intended audience.

Young adults saw the food as infantilised – and who could blame them?! Spooning a meal that’s been blended to within an inch of its life out of a jar. What’s next, their parents coming over to feed them?

The product was swiftly removed from shelves, as the product died a death. An embarrassment all around.

What does good look like?

Gerber wanted a product aimed at the young, singles market, that’s convenient and easy to make. It was a great insight – but terribly executed.

As well as being a slightly suspect brand extension strategy… this is also a classic example of being ‘product led’. They made a product (in this case one that they already made, successfully) and tried to sell it to different customers. Sometimes this can work brilliantly… but more often than not, it flops.

You’re more likely to have success with a ‘market led’ strategy – one where you research what products a consumer might want, and then develop them. Had Gerber taken this approach, they would have soon realised that cool young singletons were not on the lookout for baby food!

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Chris Rogers

I curate stories of #badmarketing so marketing professionals and business owners like you can learn from the mistakes of others - and produce better marketing that’s right first time. Bad Marketing also aims to be essential reading for marketers, academics & students – and anyone interested in the challenges of marketing.