For many years, Jell-O has been a staple of kids’ lunches and as an option for quick, fun treats. Lately, though, Jell-O has been experiencing difficulty keeping a toe-hold in a shifting snack market — and profits have been slipping.
In 2009, Jell-O sales hit a high of $932.5 million. Many of these sales came from the ready-to-eat cups of pudding and gelatins, often placed in school lunches for children. After 2009, however, Jell-O saw steady declines in profit, dipping to $753.8 million in 2013, with no clear path forward to lifting the snack back into public eye.
Part of Jell-O’s decline in sales is likely linked to a decline in relevance in today’s health-focused snack industry. Parents are more wary of brightly colored snacks, recognizing that it’s a sign of artificial dyes. And Jell-O is comprised largely of high-fructose corn syrup, something many health-conscious consumers are moving away from.
For several years, Jell-O was able to position itself as a low calorie dessert-time sweet. “There’s always room for Jell-O,” as the slogan explained. Yet consumers today aren’t just looking for a sundae substitute — they’re looking for something healthy as well. Desserts that contain protein and calcium are resonating better with these consumers, who are increasingly likely to turn to Jell-O alternatives like Greek yogurt (which is a market now surpassing $1 billion in annual sales).
In many ways, Jell-O is having to address something many large companies have been dealing with: the realization that “one marketing campaign fits all” isn’t in line with marketplace expectations anymore.
For too many years, Jell-O has relied on its stronghold in American nostalgia to help propel it forward. If it wants to remain relevant in consumers’ minds as a “now” rather than a “yesterday” snack, it will need to re-position itself in the market, and perhaps experiment with giving a fresh overhaul to a tired recipe, like what Greek Yogurt did to the yogurt industry. Without any change, though, Jell-O will be quickly wiggling its way into obscurity.