KD adds pumpkin spice to its noodles (and its ecomm push)

Kraft Heinz is not just trolling Starbucks. It's using the buzzy flavour to find out how customers use its Canteen DTC platform.


This is the first week of fall, which – in the decade since Starbucks first launched the pumpkin spice latte – means other QSRs and even non-coffee brands are rolling out their own offerings in a trend that is as much a sign of autumn as the changing leaves.

Now you can count KD among them.

“Pumpkin Spice KD” is the traditional KD that Canadians love, but with a “spice boost pack” that includes fall flavours like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ginger, in addition to the cheese mix. The LTO has a production run of 1,000, and interested parties can sign up on a waitlist on a special microsite. The free packs will include KD, pumpkin spice mix, a fork and a white coffee cup with tongue-in-cheek references to Starbucks, complete with a parody logo and misspelled customer’s names.

The out-of-home, social- and influencer-driven creative is aimed so squarely at the popular Seattle-based coffee chain that some OOH elements are even placed near its locations.

Brian Neumann, senior brand manager of brand building and innovation at Kraft Heinz Canada, tells strategy the company wanted to find a way to join the perennial fall conversations surrounding pumpkin spice flavours – featuring a mix of fans eagerly anticipating its return and detractors bemoaning the fact that pumpkin spice finds it ways into so many products every September.

“Every year, pumpkin spice season is a cultural phenomenon and a lot of brands have joined the conversation,” he says, adding this was a natural opportunity for KD to get people smiling and engaged. While making this an LTO helps spur interest, Neumann says the company will also gauge reaction to see if it should make it permanent. During sign-up for the Pumpkin Spice KD waitlist, Canadians have to fill out a short survey, including questions about their KD purchase frequency and what kinds of new flavours they may be interested in.

In a previous capacity, Neumann helped launch Kraft Heinz’s condiment mash-ups, which resulted in products like Mayochup. He says Canadians love to combine flavours and are already doing it in their homes; this is “a little more wacky,” he says, combining KD’s more off-beat brand voice with popular seasonal flavours.

KD has high household penetration, something that has remained strong with increased demand for shelf-stable comfort foods and snacks during the pandemic. The other pandemic trend Kraft Heinz has been noticing the importance of is ecommerce capabilities – after getting on the waitlist, consumers will get access to the Kraft Heinz Canteen, where they will place their order for Pumpkin Spice KD.

Neumann says this is the first campaign that has leveraged the Kraft Heinz Canteen, a DTC site that allows customers to buy family-sized bundles of Kraft Heinz’s top-tier brands, such as KD, Kraft Peanut Butter and Heinz’s line of condiments. This is a way to not only promote the site but giving Kraft Heinz an opportunity to learn more about how KD’s younger target interacts with this kind of offering.

“[The Canteen is] a great tool in our arsenal to connect better with consumers,” Neumann says, and the company will also be leveraging it to promote new SKUs and provide a convenient way to access its products, outside of traditional retail.

Rethink is its creative lead on the campaign, with The Colony Project on PR and Starcom leading media buying.