Gay Lea sends baking kits to families and frontline workers

The dairy co-op finds a DTC route to promote the benefits of baking after an Easter campaign was cancelled.


Gay Lea is surprising families and grocery workers with a baking kit, acknowledging shortages, inspiring family camaraderie and referencing its dairy farming base.

As part of the dairy co-op’s “#bakehappytogether” campaign, it is giving away 1,400 baking kits across 14 neighbourhoods in the Greater Toronto Area – one third of the recipients will be grocery store workers.

The baking kits contain butter, flour, sugar and a simple shortbread recipe, delivered in a folksy, doily box. Robert London, director of marketing at Gay Lea, says that the initiative is an acknowledgement that we are all going through difficult times, and since it’s difficult to source baking ingredients right now, the kits provide an opportunity for families to do activities together. Gay Lea Foods consulted with child and parenting expert Cindy Smolkin of Connected Parenting, who advocates baking as an anxiety reducing activity that can bring families together.

London stresses, however, that the brand is not looking at this initiative as a growth opportunity, but “to connect with consumers in the marketplace and give them some ingredients to bake with,” and that this activity-based inspiration was a great connection to the company’s butter line. Its insights have shown that more people are baking at home right now, but are also enjoying the creative aspects of it.

London says the 1,400 kits symbolize the 1,400 family farms, board members and delegates that make up its membership as a co-operative. Gay Lea is also planning another surprise drop in the coming weeks – giving away 1,400 baking-themed puzzles.

Gay Lea - bakehappytogether

The brand had a lot planned before COVID-19 struck, London says, especially around butter, which is usually the focus of holiday season campaigns as they index highly on baking, he says, citing the brand’s “24 Days of Baking” Christmas campaign – or a large Easter campaign it had planned for this year before it was shelved.

The company also had a summer cheese program and activations focusing on its toasted marshmallow whipped cream, focused in a recent national campaign to boost interest in the aerosol cream segment during the summer by linking it to the great outdoors and camping. It planned on activating in local supermarkets and doing outdoor events to follow up on that campaign, plans London says are now on the back burner, as is creative work it had done for sampling programs.

Gay Lea has tried its hand at DTC sampling as well – something many marketers are turning to in the absence of in-store or on-the-street programs – but dairy products are a bit harder to get into the hands of consumers. It is, however, doing couponing through the mail and offering meal and recipe solutions for its cottage cheese and whipped cream offerings.

Gay Lea, like other companies, is favoring the social media route now thanks to the coronavirus. In addition to the giveaway being promoted through social, the company is encouraging consumers to bake and tag the company regardless of whether they’ve received a gift box, using the “#bakehappytogether” tag.

Chalkboard Marketing handles Gay Lea’s experiential work. Toronto-based strategic communications agency Purpose Ink also assisted with the program roll out.