Loblaw pop-up proves gluten-free doesn’t mean taste free

Grocer sets out to prove how tasty its President's Choice gluten-free line is


Despite the massive growth in gluten-free everything (thanks Wheat Belly) many people still believe food without gluten is, well, not good.

Loblaw and John St. are out to prove that gluten-free doesn’t mean taste free with a new campaign for Loblaw’s President’s Choice. The cornerstone of the campaign is a video of unaware consumers being pleasantly surprised by the taste of gluten-free baked goods in an unbranded pop-up bakeshop in Montreal.

“PC is a brand that is really based on food discovery and offering our customers choices,” said Cheryl Grishkewich, vice-president of control brand marketing at Loblaw. And it’s clear that more of those customers are looking for gluten-free options, either because they can’t eat gluten or simply choose not to eat it because they think it’s healthier, though it’s also clear many people haven’t been thrilled by their gluten-free choices. “What we hear anecdotally is that eating gluten-free feels like a compromise [on taste].”

To be fair, the gluten-free trend has been gaining speed since before the popular book Wheat Belly was published in 2011. According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, between 2008 and 2012, the gluten-free market had a compound annual growth rate of more than 26% and the global market is expected to hit US$6.2 billion by 2018. Citing 2013 research from the Canadian Celiac Association, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada said 29% of Canadians are looking for gluten-free products (7% for medical reasons).

The President’s Choice gluten-free line was introduced with just eight products in 2012 and has grown to 50 products since then.

“Our mission is to develop gluten-free products that also taste great,” said Grishkewich. The video shows the unsuspecting customers shocked to hear the baked goods they are tasting are gluten-free.

“The message is whether you have to eat gluten-free because of dietary restrictions of whether you choose to, it shouldn’t mean you have to compromise taste.”

The video was shot over two days in Montreal last month. Loblaw opted not to spend money on a TV buy, opting instead for a digital only distribution strategy using YouTube, social media and the “food sensitivities” page on the President’s Choice website. Aside from a 68 second version, a 15-second teaser introduced the pop-up bakery last week.

“We had a great response to that with people reaching out saying, ‘what is going on?,’” said Grishkewich. And consumer response, based on views, social engagement and sentiment and traffic to PC’s website have all been strong, she said. “We’ve been really pleased with this initiative and it’s only been promoted and up and running over the last week.”

Aside from the video, the campaign includes magazine ads, digital ads, search, in-store signage as well as PR including blogger and influencer outreach. Articles and recipes are being posted at and shared through social.

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