Natrel’s charming play

How is the Agropur line gaining double-digit growth in an in-decline market? With diverted budgets, expanded distribution and now an improvised digital-only push.

Lactose-free milk is a gem in Natrel’s repertoire, says Caroline Losson, VP marketing for Natrel at Agropur.

The category is booming, despite a decline in the milk space. But the biggest barrier to purchase is still the perception that lactose-free milk doesn’t taste as good as regular milk.

But Losson says they know, based on consumer data, that people can’t tell the difference between the two, which has led to a repositioning of the brand’s marketing campaign. It’s no longer about how lactose-free milk tastes as good as regular milk, she says. It’s that you can’t taste the difference at all. It’s a subtle shift in language, but the tweak led to the brand’s latest digital-only campaign by Lg2.

The new work, which hit YouTube yesterday, includes four English and four French spots and features improv actors in a typical taste-test scenario. They’re asked to tell a proctor which of the two glasses in front of them is lactose free, but do everything they can to avoid actually answering the question. It will live on YouTube and the brand’s owned channels, and will be promoted by digital banner ads and social media, and supported through October and November.

The latest push, which targets adults 25+ with a slight skew towards women, comes as a result of concerted marketing efforts on the part of the brand to reach people who feel discomfort when drinking milk. Compounding the growing segment of the population that is lactose intolerant, the entire milk category is in decline, Losson says, as millennials shift towards alternate beverages or skip breakfast at home (where milk is primarily consumed).

“So we want to charm people into the lactose-free proposition,” she says. But she adds Natrel wasn’t the only one to spot the white space in the lactose-free category. Her competition started ramping up its marketing and product innovation in the lactose-free space, while on-trend alternatives (such as soy or almond milk) provided another option to those who do feel discomfort.

So a year and a half ago, she says Natrel started really dialing up the product innovation and marcom, getting lactose-free in front of more consumers, including the introduction of lactose-free cream, and expanding the distribution across the country.

The company diverted funds from marketing the brand’s fine-filtered milk (which has been in a decline as a result of a price war in Ontario, with regular milk driving down the costs of the more premium product), to help boost the lactose-free sales. Losson adds that they haven’t stepped away from fully backing fine-filtered milk, rather, they’re just shifting marketing dollars towards the product that offers a stronger return on investment – in this case, lactose free.

To date the brand has seen double-digit growth in the lactose-free category and has just started its planning phase for 2015, which depending on the success for the latest Lg2 ads could include more digital-only pushes and taking the digital campaigns to national TV. It will also include a more concerted effort at targeting ethnic shoppers, who are increasing in number in Canada, she adds, and who are more often sensitive to lactose than North American consumers.