Water Cooler: Surviving A Holiday Without Cheesecake
Where there’s a problem, there’s also an opportunity, and recently, The Kraft Heinz Company saw a way to reach customers amidst a monumental cream cheese shortage. In October, Green Bay, Wisconsin-based Schreiber Foods, a major milk producer and Kraft Heinz competitor, shut down for a few days following a ransomware attack. The attack affected the company’s 30-plus factories and distribution centers worldwide and compromised its ability to produce its products. The company was hit with a $2.5 million ransomware cost, but the loss of perishable product and the subsequent effects on the businesses it supplies amounted to much more.
With Schreiber Foods closed temporarily, pressure was placed on the many businesses that use cream cheese—bakeries, cafés, restaurants and bagel shops—but also on its competitors, who experienced increased demand. This demand was made worse by lingering supply-chain issues, from a shortage in labor, including truck drivers, and a lack of packaging materials.
Even though Schreiber Foods was only closed for a few days, the cream cheese shortage continued well into the holiday season, affecting other businesses including Philadelphia Cream Cheese, which is owned by Kraft Heinz. With many customers looking forward to making or buying cheesecake as part of an annual tradition, the company saw the chance to connect with its customers while also offering a solution. Philadelphia Cream Cheese created a 46-second ad, “Spread the Feeling,” which it shared to its YouTube channel on December 13, 2021, encouraging fans to nix the cheesecake this year in exchange for another beloved dessert. In the ad, a narrator says, “It’s not an empty shelf—it’s a holiday tradition waiting on another year. Because having a hard time finding cream cheese on shelves means having a hard time putting cheesecake on tables. And we get that. So, let’s do this. This year, turn that famous cheesecake into those famous brownies. End your meal with a friendly fight over the last holiday cupcake. Share some cookies.”
In addition to the ad, Philadelphia Cream Cheese offered a $20 reward to 18,000 winners who entered to win via the campaign website, spreadthefeeling.com. The reward was marketed as the company’s way of paying customers not to buy cheesecake—perhaps swaying them to overlook the shortage—or paying for the dessert they purchased instead. The effort on behalf of Philadelphia Cream Cheese is perceived to reassure customers about the shortage, conveying an awareness about the inconvenience the shortage may pose to them, but also offering a way to temporarily mitigate the mishap while still enjoying their holiday—and viewing Philadelphia Cream Cheese as a partner in doing so.
Renda is an associate editor at PPAI.