Smith Dairy Products Company may be best known for its Yellow Super Jug and Moovers milk, or perhaps for its Ruggles Premium ice cream. But Smith’s cottage cheese has been a perennially profitable category in its own right for this family-owned regional manufacturer headquartered in Orrville, Ohio.
Smith’s cottage cheese line, comprised of five varieties-large curd, small curd, lowfat small curd, nonfat small curd, and pineapple-had been such a strong performer without the benefit of heavy promotion that we felt there was an interesting opportunity to see what happened when we did promote it.
The objective was simple: increase volume in all varieties. We reached that objective and, in fact, exceeded all of our expectations, thanks to the first-ever Smith’s Cash Cow Cottage Cheese Recipe Contest.
Running from January to March of 2007, we invited consumers to submit their most original and creative recipes using Smith’s cottage cheese products. We accepted entries in three categories-appetizers, main dishes, and desserts-and offered $250 cash prizes for first-place winners in each category, as well as a $500 cash prize for a Grand Prize winner.
Smith Dairy didn’t simply make the announcement and sit back and wait for entries to roll in. We took a more aggressive approach, kicking off the contest with a call for entries in Sunday newspapers throughout the region on January 14th. The Free Standing Insert (FSI) also enticed consumers to buy and try Smith’s cottage cheese with savings coupons, which we supported with tear pads with coupons at point-of-purchase in participating stores.
We continued to reinforce the message with a follow-up FSI in February 11 newspapers that featured another call for contest entries, and we spotlighted the contest on our Web site at smithdairy.com, where traffic increased during the contest period.
More support came from an effective media relations campaign. We distributed press releases with varied angles at several points during the contest period, and we invited regional newspaper food editors to sit on the independent panel of judges.
We received more than 500 entries for the contest, but we received much more, too. Consumers wrote in to explain why they preferred Smith’s brand cottage cheese to our competitors’ products, which gave us terrific insight into their buying habits and the nature of their brand loyalty. We also collected important demographic data, which we can use for market research in the future, or as a mailing list, as we asked entrants if they would like to receive promotional materials from Smith Dairy.
Finally, we narrowed the field to 12 finalists, and on March 21 the judges reached their verdict, with a Canton, Ohio woman winning the Grand Prize for her Three-Cheese Spicy Shrimp Pizzas entry. We followed up with yet another press release announcing the winners, and another FSI, which reprinted the Grand Prize recipe as well as encouraged purchase with discount coupons.
The contest paid off for the winners, and all of the promotional work paid off for us. It contributed to a significant increase in volume during the event as well as a sustained lift post-contest. With 18 stories in the press during the contest period, we reached hundreds of thousands of consumers with our brand message, and we generated an immeasurable amount of good will with our retail partners, who also benefited from the bump in volume.
Now Smith’s Cottage Cheese has a much higher profile than we ever expected it would. Moove over Moovers-there’s a new star on the Smith Dairy horizon.