A very gourd idea from Kraft Dinner

It’s late September, which means we’re now officially into the dog days of Pumpkin Spice Season—the time of year when food and drink brands look to cash in on what might just be the most popular seasonal item of them all.

This year sees a new entrant into what Forbes magazine once described as the “$600 million pumpkin spice industrial complex,” with Kraft Heinz Canada announcing the creation of a limited-edition product called Pumpkin Spice KD.

It’s basically a box of Kraft Dinner accompanied by what the company describes as a “Pumpkin Spice Boost Pack” containing hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ginger, as well as a fork and a white coffee cup with the recipient’s name.

Brian Neumann, senior brand manager, brand building and innovation, said the run was designed to be a “fun and humorous” campaign, but consumer response could determine if Pumpkin Spice KD becomes a permanent addition to the product portfolio.

Kraft Heinz is giving away 1,000 boxes of Pumpkin Spice KD, and is inviting people to join a wait list at PumpkinSpiceKD.com. To get on the list, people must provide their contact information and answer two questions: How often do they eat KD? And what other flavours of KD would you try?

It is one of the first programs to use the company’s Kraft Heinz Canteen, an online site that enables consumers to purchase family-sized packs of its most iconic brands, including Kraft Dinner, Kraft Peanut Butter and Heinz Ketchup.

Kraft Heinz is also having a little fun with Starbucks—the company that essentially ushered in all this Pumpkin Spice madness with the 2003 introduction of the Pumpkin Spice Latte. The name on the Pumpkin Spice KD cup will be spelled incorrectly, while a media buy by Starcom includes TSAs in the vicinity of the coffee chain’s locations (so just about every Toronto street corner?).

Kraft Dinner also responded to a Starbucks tweet Tuesday celebrating the first day of fall and the Pumpkin Spice Latte.

While there is paid media supporting the product, Pumpkin Spice KD also aligns with the Kraft Heinz Canada strategy of quirky ideas that generate lots of earned media—like a ketchup-red puzzle during the pandemic and KD Bites on the Burger King menu. After announcing the promotion Tuesday morning the story was quickly picked up by several major Canadian media outlets including CTV, the Toronto Sun, CityNews and Narcity.

Rethink is the creative agency and The Colony Project is handling PR, include social and influencer content.

“[We] have seen great success and positive consumer response in the past when bringing brands together,” said Neumann. “We are always looking to leverage creative ideas and our iconic brands to build brand love with out consumers, and that sometimes involves us doing some unexpected things.”

And if there’s a hot consumer trend right now, pumpkin spice is it. The original Pumpkin Spice Latte has reportedly generated more than $1.4 billion in sales for Starbucks since its 2003 introduction, while a 2018 Nielsen report said that annual sales of pumpkin spice products in the U.S. alone topped $488 million that year.

Gourd grief! It turns out there really is a great pumpkin after all.

Chris Powell