San Pellegrino gets cooking

What goes best with a culinary experience? Ditch the wine and grab a nice cold glass of...water?

When you pop into a restaurant, do you always ask for sparkling water? Is it part of your dining-out ritual? If not, then Nestle-owned San Pellegrino is targeting you with its latest brand push.

“One of our goals is recapturing the hearts and minds of the culinary world,” says Jennifer Semley Robert, marketing manager of the international brands at Nestle.”The brand was built in fine-dining establishments.”

With Canadians increasingly moving towards a “foodie” culture, she says it was a great time to refocus its marketing efforts on ingratiating itself again with the dining experience. “We’re trying to ensure that people keep it top of mind when they’re out,” she says. “There’s a lot of competition in restaurants stealing for that space of mind.”

This year, the brand sent Canadian chef Danny Smiles (former Top Chef Canada contestant) to compete at the S. Pellegrino Cooking Cup in Italy – an annual regatta where chefs have two hours to cook a complete meal on a sailboat.

It’s the first time Canada has competed in the 14-year-old event, says Semley Robert. In previous years, the water brand had sent competitors to compete in a junior cooking competition, however to appeal to its older, 44- to 55-year-old, higher-income demographics, the brand pulled out of the junior competition (average competitors were 12 to 22), in favour of the more prestigious one. The brand also sent Fifth Story, a Toronto-based content marketing firm to capture the whole thing for a push on various digital channels, including Yahoo! and AOL.

To support the branded content push (which runs until the end of the year) San Pellegrino has also been active in the cooking event sponsorship space, adding its name to big events like the Taste of Toronto festival, Second Harvest Taste Toronto and the Infinite Dining Series.

Up next the brand is running an advertorial in various chef trade publications, featuring chef Grant van Gameren, who helped found the Black Hoof in Toronto and now runs Bar Isabel. His piece speaks on his cooking inspiration, which product he trusts and how he thinks S. Pellegrino is part of the overall dining experience. The advertorial will run in the trades this month, and will shift over to highly-foodie magazines next month, including Food and Drink and Toronto Life.