Special K 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
As I was channel surfing the other day, looking for something interesting to
watch, I chanced upon a program on Channel 8 that I had usually flicked past. I
don’t know what it was that caught my attention this time, but I’m so glad it
did, as Brands That Make Billions turned out to be an utterly fascinating
program. In fact, it’s a three-part documentary, and each part is equally
A BBC Open University co-production that they call The Foods
That Make Billions, the series traces the history of three consumer products
that have become so much a part of our daily lives that it’s hard to image a
time when bottled water, cold cereal and yogurt didn’t line our supermarket
shelves. And not just that – the series takes us back to a time when we didn’t
have supermarkets, either.
In the episode entitled “Liquid Gold,” the
segment explores how bottled water has expanded from a mere trickle to one of
the largest inundations in the modern food and beverage industry. Starting with
Evian in France, industry experts explain how mineral water became popular and
scores of local and international brands began to flood the global markets with
bottles of spring water, sparkling water and flavored water.
explain the concept of added value, whereby manufacturers append additional
benefits to a product. So with a basic item like water, perceived
properties such as purity, convenience, health and lifestyle become elements
that consumers are willing to pay extra for.
From a marketing
perspective, what a brilliant plan it was to get millions of people to buy and
lug home bottles of a commodity they had been drinking for free from their own
The episode entitled “The Age of Plenty” deals with the phenomenon
of cereal in a box. It all started with Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and catapulted to
the hundreds of cereal brands and varieties we see today. It traces how, after
World War II, the traditional English family hot breakfast of eggs and toast
shifted to the convenient morning meal of cold cereal and milk. The highly
sweetened cereals for children were soon accompanied by whole grain and granola
products for adults. And when an industry executive saw his Swiss au pair adding
fruit and nuts to her cereal one morning, the production of cold cereal with
raisins, nuts and tropical fruit was initiated.
Putting little prizes in
the box was another industry innovation, which had kids around the world digging
into the cereal box before digging into the cereal bowl.
In the third
episode, “Pots of Gold,” we see how yogurt came on the scene. First produced in
Japan as a brand called Yakult, yogurt was introduced to Britain with a brand
called Ski. Designed to evoke the feeling of health, well-being and the great
outdoors, Ski was soon in fierce competition with a host of other brands that
were jockeying for position in dairy cases worldwide. Flavorings, fruit, jams
and granola were added to the little plastic containers of the bacterial milk
product, and the industry was off and running.
With a small addition to
the container, the industry insiders explain, the yogurt industry turned another
corner, so to speak. By adding a separate little corner with jam in it, which
you flip into the yogurt once the whole container is opened, the manufacturers
added yet another innovation that consumers were willing to pay for.
series also explains how the advent of the supermarket dramatically changed the
nature of the food and beverage industry and how brand loyalty has stood
companies in good stead.
If you like Mad Men
, you will enjoy this series.
While the former is a fictionalized drama series based on how the ad men of
Madison Avenue worked their commercial magic in the 1960s, Brands That Make
is the real deal. It chronicles how manufacturers and advertisers have
worked together to perform sheer alchemy, turning three basic raw materials into
So next time you’re at the supermarket, take a good look at some of
the brands we all helped to make billions.