Comfort Foods Make for Comfortable Growth – Even in a Recession

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Most companies right now are clamping down on their marketing budgets, trying to trim the fat where it’s not necessary.

For General Mills, that strategy was counterintuitive; they need consumers to consider their products perfect for the burgeoning recession, and they ramped up their marketing spending by 16%. Their reward? An 8% increase in revenue, with 14.7 billion in sales, and a consumer base that thought the company’s products were the perfect comfort foods for these difficult times.

General Mills provides a lot of supermarket staples, including soup, cereal, baking goods, instant mixes, and other such homey comforts. Granted, they’re in an industry that naturally endears them to budget strapped Americans. Hamburger Helper, for instance, has improved their sales astronomically, due in no small part to its association with low budgets.

The comfort factor cannot be denied, though. Many of General Mills’ products are sold in similar forms by other companies – the different being that General Mills spent their marketing money hard and fast at the beginning of the recession.

While other companies were unsure whether they were willing to take the risk to put in more marketing money, General Mills had already sewn up consumer loyalty. They had officially become the most comforting brands for the recession.

This isn’t to say that they didn’t put in some new strategies too. The Betty Crocker products, for example, now have a wide and expanding base of recipe-seekers in a spanking-new online forum. But sometimes it’s best to stick with tried and true in uncertain times – a message General Mills managed to drive home to consumers just when they needed to hear it most.

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