Uncrustables: What You Thought You Knew

Beyond Lunch Boxes: Uncrustables in Pop Culture and the Future Ahead

Uncrustables, those ubiquitous frozen circles of peanut butter and jelly happiness, have a surprisingly long history of being, well, unknown.

While they seem like a recent fad, they've actually been around since the mid-1990s.

A Trip Down Jelly Lane

Let’s understand how they got here:

A Niche Beginning (1995): Uncrustables weren't born under the bright lights of marketing campaigns. In 1995, they were the brainchild of two dads from Fargo, North Dakota, looking for a way to get their kids to eat healthy lunches at school. Their idea? Pre-made, crustless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They found a market in Midwestern school cafeterias, but their reach was limited.

Smucker’s Steps In (1998): The J.M. Smucker Company, a household name in jams, jellies, and peanut butter, saw the potential in Uncrustables and acquired them in 1998. At the time, Smucker's marketing focus was primarily on established brands, and Uncrustables seemed content to cater to their niche market in schools.

Production Limitations (1998-2022): Another factor limiting Uncrustables' reach was simply the ability to make them. The early days relied on a less-than-high-tech production process, making it difficult to meet potential demand. This kept Uncrustables from becoming a national phenomenon.

Despite the lack of marketing muscle, Uncrustables gained a devoted following through word-of-mouth.Parents loved the convenience, kids loved the mess-free fun, and athletes discovered them as a quick and portable source of energy. But this popularity remained largely under the radar.

The Kelce Brothers: Unexpected Brand Champions

In late 2022, Travis Kelce, a star NFL player, professed his love for Uncrustables on his podcast. This seemingly random act of brand advocacy, along with his brother's chiming in with childhood memories, unexpectedly thrust Uncrustables into the spotlight. Smucker's, realizing the potential for a wider audience, seized the moment and launched a marketing campaign that capitalized on the Kelce brothers' fame.

Smucker's Takes Action: From Awareness to Marketing Blitz

Smucker cleverly leveraged the Kelce brothers' endorsement. Recognizing the potential for wider brand awareness, Smucker's acted quickly. They sponsored the Kelce brothers' podcast, sent them personalized gifts (including a bracelet for Travis that spelled out "Taylor Swift," his girlfriend at the time), and even created a commercial featuring mascots inspired by the brothers. This marketing blitz used the Kelces' fame to introduce Uncrustables to a whole new audience.

Uncrustables Gets a Makeover: Building a Brand Identity

Historically, Smucker's focused on promoting established brands. Uncrustables, despite their popularity, remained unpromoted. The Kelce incident highlighted the need for a dedicated branding strategy. Smucker's is now actively building a fun and engaging image for Uncrustables, moving them beyond their previous low-key presence.

Their debut TV ad aired during Monday Night Football, featuring a Chiefs-versus-Eagles rematch, setting new viewership records. It marked the final face-off between Kelce brothers, Jason and Travis, following Travis' third Super Bowl victory and Jason's subsequent retirement announcement in March.

The commercial introduced the snack's new mascots: Uncrustables, a jovial circular character, and Crust, his elder sibling resembling a PB&J sandwich with a sizable hole punched through his midsection. Crust, oozing peanut butter and jelly as he moves, grapples with living in the shadow of his flashier, renowned sibling—the "best part of the sandwich."

Dubbed the Bread Brothers, the mascots were actually conceived three years prior, according to Hollander. Any resemblance to the Kelces? "Pure luck," chuckles Mark Smucker.

Uncrustables have transcended their lunchbox origins. The unexpected popularity goes beyond the Kelce brothers. Athletes are known fans, celebrities have been spotted enjoying them, and social media is abuzz with debates about their culinary classification (are they sandwiches or dumplings?). This broader cultural phenomenon has Smucker's rethinking Uncrustables' potential.

The Future of Uncrustables: New Flavors, New Markets

With increased production capacity to meet demand, a growing brand identity thanks to Smucker's marketing efforts, and new product lines on the horizon (like new flavors and potentially shelf-stable versions), Uncrustables seem poised for continued success. They may even become the next ubiquitous snack, following in the footsteps of iconic brands like Twinkies.

Since they have just started to experiment with their marketing, it would be really interesting to see how they leverage influencers going forward.

We discuss this and more in our next episode of Influencer Matchmaking on Youtube. The video will be live soon, so do subscribe.

In the meantime, do make sure you’ve caught up on the previous episodes of Influencer Matchmaking as well!

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