Nuggs is trying to be brave at shelf

McCain's new plant-based brand is taking the same social-friendly tone that made it a hit in the U.S., into stores.


In many ways, the launch of vegan chicken option Nuggs is representative of a bigger investment strategy at Canadian frozen food giant McCain to respond to the bigger trends in the marketplace.

But now that its here, and at a more granular level, the New York-based “plant-based chicken nugget simulation” now needs to generate interest at shelf to try and replicate some of the popularity it has generated south of the border.

Much of Nuggs’ success in the U.S. was generated, in part, by self-aware, web culture-friendly social posts of things like chicken nugget jewellery and playing with the inherent silliness of its brand name.

Building around this, the product, coming to Sobeys, Loblaw, Whole Foods and Maxi banners, is being positioned as “bold and witty,” according to Joseph Schirripa, VP corporate development and strategy at McCain. 

Its “Don’t Be Chicken” messaging, and tongue-in-cheek on-pack design sensibilities that feature a chicken being fed Nuggs nuggets, is all part of a move, Schirripa says, to be “punchy and unforgettable.”

The brand has a comprehensive multi-channel marketing program that includes not only in-store displays, shopper marketing influencers and targeted coupons, but also a media relations, digital and programmatic display ad push.

Schirripa tells strategy that McCain has been able to secure great listings for the brand that’s new to the market, and is activating activating shopper marketing to drive conversion, maintain those listings and further expand its listing base.


To stand out, he says, the goal is to get consumers to think about Nuggs through pre-shop tactics, such as influencers and targeted coupons, through aisle blades.

“We made the decision to merchandise in the frozen meat aisle because we want to show consumers who are trying to consume less meat that they do not need to compromise on anything, including where they have to shop in store,” Schirripa says. While other plant-based meat brands by getting listed alongside fresh meats, doing the same in the frozen aisle is something of a novelty.

When it comes to differentiation, Schirripa says  Nuggs are the result of finely-engineered technology, which has enabled a hyper-realistic simulation of animal-based nuggets.

“Simply put, they taste like chicken,” Schirripa quips.

He adds that there are nutritional benefits that include 40% less fat and 25% more protein than conventional animal-based nuggets, also that they’re cholesterol-free.

The target, Schirripa maintains, is meat eaters looking to incorporate more plant-based items into their diets, while not going after vegans or vegetarians specifically.

It’s based on insights that 36% of Canadian consumers are still interested in adding more plant-based substitutes to their diets, while flexitarians account for 25% of the Canadian population – showing that there is still big opportunity in the category since the peak of “flexitarian” buzz a few years ago, and which Schirripa says merits mass distribution into the Canadian market.

While it’s activating in most major banners, Schirripa says it’s also important for Nuggs to drive listings at regional players like Maxi to drive brand credibility.

Nuggs partnered with Meat & Produce on influencer and PR work, with DACS on shopper marketing and UM Canada on media for the rollout.