Unfortunately, Internet Explorer is an outdated browser and we do not currently support it.
To have the best browsing experience, please use Google Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge or Safari.
This is a self-funded case study using our Innovation Testing solution.
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are an American institution. In fact, so popular is Reese’s candy that if you were to line up every one of its products sold annually, it would be enough to wrap around the world eight times — according to the brand’s owner, The Hershey Company. Reese’s have never been afraid to mix things up and extend the brand into new and uncharted territory, from minis to thins, white chocolate to dark, marshmallow to caramel: Reese’s has been there, done that, clocking up well over 60 new varieties over the years.
But the brand team down at Reese’s — clearly not ones to rest on their laurels — have attempted to out-do themselves yet again with the launch of another LTO: Reese’s Big Cup with Potato Chips. In-line with their mission to show the world that “everything tastes better with chocolate and peanut butter”, the new product mixes crispy rippled potato chips together with peanut butter. The combination of sweet and salty avoids the dilemma faced by many of which type of snack they’re feeling like. How would consumers respond to this mash-up of flavors and textures — a match made in heaven, or a step too far? We used our 3 C’s framework to find out:
The concept delivered on its main goal of stopping people in their tracks and catching their attention. However, while the potato and chocolate combination was viewed as incredibly distinctive, that was where the good news ended. The idea didn’t resonate for a large proportion, lacking substance beyond its obvious novelty. More specifically, the chip-filled treat simply didn’t get people’s taste buds going. Nearly half were turned off by the flavor combination and perceived texture, with almost a third feeling disgusted.
There’s no doubting that Reese’s has some of the most unmistakable assets of any brand in the candy aisle — burnt-orange packaging contrasting against a familiar yellow and brown wordmark, together with the peanut cup shape — all serving to make the brand easily recognizable (even with the new twist). However, despite these assets, the salty addition resulted in the concept not being found particularly synergistic with expectations of the brand. Previously-tested iterations of the iconic candy have fared much better, further indicating that the inclusion of potato just doesn’t mesh with existing brand associations.
It wasn’t that people struggled to comprehend the sweet and salty proposition — they fully understood the chip, chocolate, and peanut butter mash-up — their question was more one of, “why?”. For many, it was viewed as an “overreach”; a combination perceived to compromise on the benefits of both ingredients — the smoothness of the chocolatey peanut butter, and crunchiness of chips. While certainly considered quite different to anything else, they ultimately didn’t generate a great deal of warmth. Low levels of relevance left few keen on giving them a go.
Reese’s Big Cup with Potato Chips continue the brand’s long history of iterating on its iconic hero product, with the broader strategy of a constant stream of LTO’s helping generate buzz around the brand and maintain its saliency, along with reinforcing perceptions of Reese’s being fun, quirky, and contemporary. However, when attempting to push the boundaries, caution should still be taken. Despite all the goodwill and warmth toward Reese’s, this case study demonstrates the limitations on what consumers will accept from even their most beloved brands. In fact, when you do have a product as popular as Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, people become incredibly protective of it — in the words of one person: “Leave the chocolate and peanut butter goodness alone!”. At the end of the day, new product innovation, however temporary, should still look to address a real and unmet need — otherwise, the resulting brand and sales impact will be sub-optimal.