CPGs take to QSRs

Kraft Heinz and Yves Veggie Cuisine went beyond grocery, partnering with Smokes and Pizza Pizza to drive shopper engagement.


Some CPG brands have been tinkering with distribution strategies outside of traditional retail. They’re exploring avenues beyond grocery, convenience and pharmacy, putting their packaged goods in the hands of customers at QSRs.

Beyond Meat and Impossible Burgers were among the first to put their products (and brands) front-and-centre in fast food outlets. The strategy for the plant-based food companies was to make the push into QSR first, before retail, which allowed them to circumvent market-to-shelf delays, as well as better gauge public receptiveness to their brands.

Some long-established brands, however, are going in the opposite direction, moving outside of just grocery to enter QSR.

Kraft Heinz staple Kraft Dinner took to Twitter a week before Canada Day to “end the debate on our national dish.” It called on Smoke’s Poutinerie to collaborate on a KD-poutine hybrid, but only if approved by the public. Social media spoke, and the brands listened, joining forces to launch three flavours of KD poutine available at Smoke’s locations next Monday July 15 (including KD bacon mac ‘n’ cheese Poutine, KD mac ‘n’ cheeseburger Poutine, and KD buffalo mac ‘n’ cheese Poutine).

Daniel Gotlib, senior brand manager, brand building & innovation at Kraft Heinz, says the partnership made sense because Smokes is known for its unique taste combinations and are a favourite among Canadian poutine lovers. He adds that the timing was right because of recent debates over what constitutes Canada’s “national dish,” with the program driving engagement for the brand on July 1. It also gives Kraft Dinner an opportunity to “reach new and existing consumers with another touchpoint of our brand and product.”

Yves Veggie Cuisine meanwhile, is working with Pizza Pizza to create a “Super Plant Pizza.” The 20-year old plant-based manufacturer is supplying the QSR with its veggie pepperoni product line (the pizza also contains plant-based chorizo crumble, made by Seattle-based vegan manufacturer, Field Roast Grain Meat).

Sandro D’Ascanio, VP marketing, R&D and general manager, Hain Celestial Canada (Yves’ parent company), says the pizza partnership was born out of the fact that a significant portion of volume at Yves Veggie Cuisine is vegetarian and vegan, but an increasingly important market segment is flexitarians looking to swap out meat. “Our strategy is to get plant-based proteins into as many households as possible through retail and food service,” says D’Ascanio.

Craig Jenkins, ECD at shopper marketing agency TracyLocke, says Yves would benefit from the partnership by helping to grow the category overall. Jenkins sees value in having curious flexitarians trial a vegan pepperoni, as this would help address an awareness problem: plant-based protein products are often “stuck in their own section in a grocery store,” which is an issue from a shopper marketing perspective (D’Ascanio says Yves Veggie Cuisine products are typically found in the produce section or deli section depending on the retailer).

Ken Wong, marketing professor at Queen’s University, says the market is looking for plant-based meat, and when it comes to the QSR/Yves partnership, “Pizza Pizza does not want to be caught being unaware of a trend, as opposed to seeing a big market for it themselves.” Yves is a brand that touts its nutritional benefits, and Wong says that while pizza is not regarded as a particularly healthy food, Yves was likely looking for as broad a distribution network as possible (and Pizza Pizza’s 750-store locations do just that).

Pizza Pizza Limited-Pizza Pizza Adds Plant-Based Protein Options