steak sauce

If you live in America, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with A-1 Steak Sauce. A-I Sauce, that is, now, minus the “steak.” Kraft has dropped “steak” from all packaging after more than 50 years as America’s number one steak sauce. And its just another example of big food brands repositioning products to secure a stronger market share.

The A1 recipe hasn’t been reformulated. There’s no legal tangle in calling it a “steak sauce” because it doesn’t actually include steak in the ingredients. It was always been meant as a topping (rather than a sauce made from steaks). Kraft has removed “steak” from A-1’s packaging for one simple reason: It wants you to use a lot more of it. That little word was holding the brand back, Kraft says. Because marketing something specifically for one cut of meat limits the massive market of other foods people eat. Why not put it on French fries or tofu or grilled eggplant?

“Eating habits have undergone a big transformation and A.1. is changing with them,” Cindy Halvorsen, Brand Manager, A.1. Sauce, Kraft Foods said in a statement.  “Our fans are saucing a variety of foods besides steak, so we wanted the brand name and campaign to reflect our wide-ranging appeal.” And that’s big food corporate-speak for “we want to sell a lot more sauce.” It’s the same reason Hidden Valley Ranch has recipes for Ranch Pizza on its website. If you’re only going to use a salad dressing on salad, one or two times a day at best, the brand isn’t going to grow as quickly as if you used it at every meal or in multiple recipes per meal. After all, we put salsa on breakfast foods and maple syrup in dinner marinades. It’s not really fair that iconic brands like A-1 and Hidden Valley get stuck to the specific categories they originally intended to be sold in. Maybe Doritos will make an A1 flavored chip, too.

Fast food restaurants are using this tactic as well. Remember Kentucky Fried Chicken? It went all cool K-effing-C on us so that it wouldn’t be limited to chicken. Some fast food chains have opened up their regular menus for breakfast. Because, technically, you can eat a burger at 6 am if you want to. That’s what being a grown-up is all about, right? Ever see someone drinking a can of Pepsi instead of a morning cup of coffee or tea? Take that, Mom and Dad!

Cereal brands have been doing this for a while as well: We all know the Rice Krispies treats eaten as snacks and desserts, and Chex’s foray into the snack category with its own Chex Mix products. Most brands have “recipes” on the back of boxes or on websites encouraging us to do things like put Corn Flakes on chicken.

And you can expect to see a lot more of these big food brands moving across the aisles of your supermarket to grow their brands’ reach. Because that’s what brands do: they constantly seek new markets and ways to expand markets for old products. Food, on the other hand, real, plain old boring fruits and vegetables, grains, beans and the like, all without marketing budgets or fancy labels, will always have a market that needs no sales push. Because unlike food products, all we really need to eat is food. No promotion necessary.

Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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Image: tony gonzalez