Fans Help Truvia Expand Dining Distribution

TruviaTruvia, Cargill’s stevia-based sweetener, is marshaling consumers’ help in expanding its distribution in the restaurant sector.

The brand is running a “Turn the Town Truvia” sweepstakes on its Facebook page as one initiative within its new, multimillion-dollar “From Nature, For Sweetness” integrated marketing campaign.

Consumers enter by providing their names, email addresses and the name of a restaurant (or café or bar) where they would like to see Truvia available as a sweetener option. The entry area includes a search tool to help users find/specify the dining venue of their choice, and also shows eateries recently submitted by others, accompanied by “nominate” buttons. 

The promotion is being run in two phases: Sept. 24 to Dec. 23, and Feb. 11 to May 5 (although the site will stay live between the two periods). 

The winner of the grand prize in each period will receive $5,000. Weekly drawings for $50 gift cards will also be held during each phase. Those who share the sweeps with friends earn additional entries, and if a friend wins a $50 gift card, Truvia gives the “sharer” a matching gift card. All entrants also receive a digital coupon good for $1 off a Truvia product.

While anyone in the U.S. can enter in either phase, the media support around the promotion is being targeted in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New York and Seattle in phase one, and Denver, Dallas and Miami in phase two.

Those are major markets for the sugar-substitute category in general and Truvia specifically, and therefore offer strong fan bases from which to draw restaurant nominations, says Mark Brooks, global consumer products director for the brand.

Truvia collaborated with CBS to leverage CBS’s media assets and coordinate television, radio, out-of-home, online, social media, print and sampling event efforts. 

For example, CBS identified the radio stations that best match Truvia’s target audience, and also the announcers that best align with that audience, Brooks tells Marketing Daily. In addition to running the brand’s ads, the stations’ personalities are sharing their own experiences with Truvia (including trying the brand’s baking products) on air and in their social media presences.

The collaboration is enabling Truvia to reward early-adopter dining venues by featuring them in “welcome” ads in local media like OOH and television, notes Brooks. Key Hilton Hotels & Resorts properties have been featured in TV spots, for example.

Truvia is running online ads, including geotargeted, interactive Facebook ads. One format notes the weather in the specific area, followed by a Truvia usage suggestion. For example: “Seattle is 63 degrees and rainy … stay inside with a warm drink … and stir in a little natural sweetness … natural, zero-calorie sweetness born from the leaves of the stevia plant … Truvia … from nature, for sweetness.” The ads are pulling an average click-through rate of 0.24%, versus the category average of 0.09%, according to Brooks.

The brand is also employing its Twitter presence, both to drive engagement with the sweeps and to encourage followers to visit local bakeries that are using Truvia’s baking products in their signature offerings (as a result of an outreach program by Truvia to leading bakeries in the major markets). 

Ten weeks into the first sweeps period, with nearly two weeks to go, the promotion has so far drawn more than 35,000 eatery nominations, reports Brooks. In addition, the brand’s Facebook “likes” have increased by 25% over that period, taking Truvia over the 100,000 mark as of Nov. 2. To celebrate that milestone, the brand offered a $1 coupon to all of its Facebook fans. 

Dining venues that have been nominated will receive packages from Truvia that congratulate them for being nominated by their loyal customers to carry the sweetener, and provide informational materials about the product, plus an incentive (a manufacturer rebate) to order and try out the product. 

While it’s too early to report on numbers of new dining venues brought into the brand’s fold through the nominations and follow-up program, Brooks says that these and other efforts have made 2012 a “tipping point” for the brand’s presence in the food service segment. (Among recent converts are two large Midwest coffee chains, Biggby and Dunn Bros., he notes.)

Truvia has a 61% share of the U.S. stevia-based sweetener market, according to Nielsen all-channel data for the 52 weeks ended Sept. 1, 2012.  

Moreover, as of early 2011, it became the #2 sugar substitute in the country, behind Splenda -- and Truvia is stressing to restaurants that this demonstrates that it deserves a place on their tabletops ahead of sugar substitutes that rank #3 or below in market share.

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