Ritz is not a brand that has whipped up much excitement over recent years, especially because it has suffered from what Rick Lawrence describes as a three-decade "media blackout", excepting one tactical ad for its Snack Packs last year.
The brand, known for its original 'red box' packaging, has 93% consumer awareness, despite having been put on the shelf with limited marketing investment, until now.
We will wake up certain sleepy competitors who have been relying on frying potatoes
Consumers have traditionally viewed Ritz as a safe and accessible choice, rather than an exciting one. But Mondelez hopes that the launch of Ritz Crisp & Thin snacks will change that by appealing to a younger audience, and propel the brand into the 21st century. It is backing the launch with a £10m campaign.
The TV ad, created by Mother, breaks on Friday. It features dancers and an explosion of colours, with added panache in the form of a cover version of Putting on the Ritz by American jazz singer Gregory Porter. The campaign also encompasses out-of-home, digital, sampling, in-store activity and PR.
Nasty fried potatoes
The aim of the spot is to appeal to an audience of 24- to 40-year-olds, slightly younger than the core Ritz brand's traditional consumers, and help Mondelez achieve its aim of transforming from a "chocolate, biscuits and candy" business into a "chocolate, biscuits, candy and savoury snacks business".
The Ritz brand is worth £19m and currently growing at 30%, something Lawrence wants to capitalise on.
Ritz Crisp & Thin is a crunchy snacking product that is neither a biscuit nor a crisp, and is designed to not leave oil on consumers' fingers, to help position it as a slightly less guilty snack. This brand extension is clearly intended to make inroads into the crisps market.
Mondelez sees huge growth potential in alternative snacks. As Lawrence says, with the average UK consumer eating 100 packets of crisps per year, there is room for a new kind of snack to muscle in on the action. The launch of Crisp & Thin, which is positioned as a premium snack and comes in sharing and single-serve packs, is designed to "future-proof" the category, he adds.
When a company the size of Mondelez launches into a new category, the existing players don't take things lying down
"There are only so many flavours and bag sizes and textures you can cut a potato into and sprinkle with seasoning," says Lawrence. "What we're trying to do is use our baking heritage and R&D to bring to consumers new products that serve the same need states as nasty fried potatoes do."
The launch of Crisp & Thin is about injecting something new into a category that has "really struggled with innovation", he adds.
Building a brand powerhouse
For multinational Mondelez, savoury represents a marginal amount of the business in the UK, overshadowed by other megabrands in the space. Nonetheless, Lawrence asserts that Ritz is about to embark on a "significant" growth trajectory over the next three to five years as consumers switch from alternatives, such as crisps.
"The ambition is to build Ritz from a savoury cracker brand to a savoury powerhouse," he says. "We're doing it to shake up the category; what better way than relaunching a brand loved by the nation, that already has 93% awareness without any advertising for many, many years?"
Lawrence adds: "It's very much an accessible and sociable brand. What we want to do is take that DNA, modernise it and bring Ritz into the 21st century, and we're making Ritz slightly funkier to appeal to a broad audience."
He expects fierce competition in the space, however, and will continue to accelerate brand spend for the foreseeable future.
"When a company the size of Mondelez launches into a new category, the existing players don't take things lying down. The growth anticipation for the Ritz brand is huge [and] I would imagine we will wake up certain sleepy competitors who have been relying on frying potatoes. We will see what they throw out of the market."