Commentary

Schar Doubles Down On Influencers To Reach Gluten-Free Niche


It’s one thing if you’re Oreo launching gluten-free cookies, two varieties of which will hit store shelves in January. 

The Nabisco brand can afford to splurge on television and other advertising media, although it hasn’t yet divulged specific plans for the gluten-free cookies.

In the first half of 2020 alone, Oreo spent about $15.5 million on TV, as tracked by Kantar.

This isn’t the case for smaller and younger CPG brands like Schär USA, whose gluten-free products range from bread to pasta, cookies and other snack foods. 

A subsidiary of the European company Dr. Schär, Schär USA’s target audience is people with celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome and those who are susceptible to what are labeled FODMAP carbohydrates, which can cause cramping and diarrhea.

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Over the past several years, Schär USA has relied mainly on organic and paid social media, display ads and magazines to distribute its messaging. It’s also leveraged the communicative power of digital influencers. Now it's doubling down on that tactic via the Perlu network of influencers, in conjunction with the MRM//McCann agency.

According to research by health information news site Healthline, GenZ (76%) and millennials (57%) are the generations most likely to value health influencers.

In this interview, which is edited for brevity, Schär USA community manager Alexandra Lazar talks about how the company is involving a larger number of influencers in its annual product sampling campaign and how it plans to target audiences on Spotify.

CPG FYI: Besides the expense, can one assume that TV isn’t the most efficient way to reach people who might be interested in your products?

Lazar: The gluten-free market is growing significantly, but our target audience is rather small, and we are very specific on who we talk to. We want to have meaningful conversations with our consumers, and we can’t really see that happening with a TV ad.

CPG FYI: You say you’ve used influencers before but on a “low level.” Please explain.

Lazar: What I mean is, we would internally source these influencers and form relationships with them. Within the celiac community there is a group of approximately 10 to 20 influencers that are very vocal. But it’s hard to manage internally when you’re part of the brand. 

CPG FYI: Tell us about your annual product sampling campaigns.

Lazar: Every year, we invest money in creating these boxes that get shipped out to our consumers. With the gluten-free consumer, sometimes price can be a barrier because [gluten-free] products are a little bit more expensive just based on the testing that needs to be completed. 

We come up with a theme for each of these boxes and then we have a link where consumers can sign up via a form. They get entered into our database and then we ship them out these boxes. We ask them for a little bit of information—like what kinds of products they miss the most [since they went gluten-free].

CPG FYI: How does that change by getting some of Perlu’s influencers involved?

Lazar: Their followers are looking to them for advice and product recommendations. Our research has found that people with celiac don’t really go to a doctor. They go into a celiac Facebook group or to influencers. [It’s the] Internet and people they trust there. 

CPG FYI: How are results being measured?

Lazar: We’ve come up with a benchmark of one million impressions, so we are [initially] partnering with just over 50 influencers. We also have them link to our registration. That’s really going to be the biggest performance measure for us, how many of their followers go ahead and follow through with their registration.

CPG FYI: How many sample boxes are we talking about?

Lazar: This year we’re doing 15,000 in the United States and 5,000 in Canada.

CPG FYI: You launched an online shop in August of 2019. Have you done any subscription services?

Lazar: It’s something that the team has discussed. It’s a long-term goal for us, but at the moment, we don’t do subscriptions.

CPG FYI: How does audio fit into your marketing tactics?

Lazar: We’re going to be advertising on Spotify. We are able to target gluten-free consumers based on third-party data. Our team works with Spotify directly to import data that helps us to pinpoint, like this person most likely buys other gluten-free brands, so it’s someone we should target.

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