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Caroline Losson, vice president of marketing for the company, talks about the brand’s improvements, and what makes their dairy products more attractive, both on the outside and inside. Steve Engelhardt reports.
The brand name Natrel has been around for nearly 25 years, with its roots taking hold in 1990, formed under the umbrella of Agropur, a well-established cooperative based in Canada whose facilities produce nearly 3.3 billion liters of milk annually from the farms of over 3,300 diary farmers across each of the country’s provinces. “We’re the biggest Canadian dairy co-op owned by local farmers,” Losson says, adding, “when people buy Natrel, they know that they’re buying local, which is an added benefit compared to other brands on the shelves.”
Shaking Things Up
Natrel’s brand repositioning began over two years ago, when it harmonized the aesthetic look of its packaging at its two major presences in Quebec and Ontario, a move that Losson described as “crucial, because it really put our products on the same page, across the board.” And yet, even with an engaging, uniform brand in place, the company had its sights set on bringing about even bigger changes.
“We felt that, with an esteemed brand logo and name in place, we had an empty vessel waiting to be filled,” Losson says, adding, “Natrel, and Agropur by extension, has always committed itself to being highly conscious of the environment and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and we felt we needed to better represent those qualities in the milk that was filling our cartons.”
In order to properly identify the correct elements to take their brand to the next level, the marketing team at Natrel teamed up with a group of agencies—Cohésion Strategy (brand diagnostics), LG2 and LG2 Boutique (communications and packaging), CloudRaker (digital and web), and DensuBos (media)—to ensure a diverse set of ideas that would ultimately lead to a dynamic product. “We all got together at the table and worked together to bring Natrel to a new level,” Losson says, adding, “what we found is that there is a market for premium milk which offers additonal benefits.”
Given the company’s quality-based philosophy of sustainability, the decision was easy. “The name Natrel is quite similar to the word ‘natural’, and we made it our goal to ensure that all of our products going forward embodied naturalistic qualities, even if it meant spending a little more to achieve that.” The investment? Fifteen million dollars.
A Natural Change
From there, they reformulated the recipe of their flavored milk by removing all artificial coloring, flavoring, and preservatives present beforehand. “When you think of a strong brand, the key factor is being able to come through on your promise to the customer,” she says, adding, “with our new mission to bring products made with natural source ingredients to our valued consumers, we took the necessary steps to make sure our milk was made from just that.”
In addition to changing the recipes of its existing milk products, Natrel also added an additional one in February through its maple-flavored milk; an addition that Losson says has been “extremely popular” thus far. Building off of this success in product innovation of brand image and recipe, the company set its sights on reinventing the packaging of the milk as well. “We wanted to fully encompass our commitment to a natural product, by presenting it in a packaging that represented our culture as well.”
The new packaging is characterized by an ultrathin plastic lining that keeps the milk hermetically sealed and protects the edges, ensuring that the milk stays fresh for a longer period of time. “We believe this packaging will serve as an industry model for milk conservation and taste preservation going forward,” Losson says, continuing, “and in combination with this, we believe that our comprehensive rebranding, backed by sustained point-of-sale promotional support, will help differentiate Natrel from the competition and build on its strong leadership position within the Canadian dairy industry.”
Losson says while Natrel and the accompanying agencies ultimately developed the ideas behind the mass repositioning of their milk, its general success was achieved through the seamless integration of the changes into their production processes across their nine facilities. “All our plants, from Ottawa and Victoria, to Chilliwack and Quebec City, adapted efficiently and effectively to the product and packaging alterations, and ensured that we never missed a step,” Losson says. All of Natrel’s production facilities are S2S certified and employ numerous quality assurance programs, a practice and mindset possessed by all of Agropur’s subsidiary businesses.
Between fluid processing, an all-natural product, and a brand name and logo that appropriately communicate such, Natrel has been experiencing quite a bit of success since the completion of their makeover in April. Losson says that the brand, which can be found on supermarket shelves all across Canada is in the process of being evaluated for the US marketplace as well. “Today, the Natrel brand fully reflects the quality of its products and is enjoying a strongly positive consumer response,” she says, adding, “with it’s initial success, we plan on bringing it to an expanded population in the U.S. as well.”
The success of their rebranded milk has Natrel not only looking to expand its customer base, but also its product line. “We invest a significant amount of time and money into the research and development of our products,” Losson says, adding, “but aside from just our milk offerings, we’re also in the process of developing an expanded line of dairy products with the same ‘all-natural’ qualities to impact an even larger audience of consumers, a prospect that excites us greatly.”
While she wasn’t able to specify the exact types of dairy products Natrel will be offering, one thing is clear: the brand’s success in the market looks to continue through a multitude of platforms for many years to come. And with a product based upon all natural ingredients, with the packaging and brand reputation to back it up, how could you say no?