This week I came across another celebrity endorsement – or partnership – as these days it’s called. Justin Beiber has joined forces with the powerful Tim Horton’s chain to create and market “Holesome” snack Timbiebs which come in 3 flavors: Chocolate white fudge, sour cream chocolate chip and birthday cake waffle. Basically they are donut holes. I’ll be upfront and say that I have not had the pleasure (?) of tasting them so I can’t comment on the taste or “holesomeness”. In addition to the snack – Tim Horton’s is also selling Beiber’s merchandise which is co-branded and includes tote bags, fanny packs and a toque selling for $30 to $80 – and the merchandise is selling out. Earlier we talked about Cardi B’s vodka infused whipped cream.
What is it about food and celebrities? Some celebs like Leonardo DiCaprio as been using his money to invest in food companies whose values align with his own – better for your foods which are better for the environment. Others like George Clooney and Randy Gerber created a tequila brand that sold for one billion dollars to Diageo in 2017. I can’t count how many celebs have invested in or slapped their name on liquor and food brands. They just love the food business. And most people love celebs. A recent study found that celebrity endorsement can increase a company’s sales by an average of 4%. Now 4% could be a lot of incremental sales based on a brands volume – but is it time to evaluate just what paying a million dollars or more to the likes of Jennifer Aniston to hawk Smart Water – who by the way got a lot more than that in addition to stock before they sold to Coca-Cola for $4 billion. Let’s remember for every success in food there are a lot of failures. Remember Dennis Rodman’s lollypops? They were named a sure thing as he always seemed to have a pop in hand or mouth. Or Bing Crosby’s Ice Cream that launched in 1953 who was convinced his name and smiling face would make his vanilla ice cream a huge hit – especially based on those snow-covered Christmas album covers. And my favorite – was another sure thing – from who was at the time the most famous Italian mega-celebrity – Frank Sinatra who put his face and name on pasta sauce. How could that one miss? Well it did – and it should be a lesson that even if you are a celebrity – in the supermarket aisles you are competing with Chef Boy-ardee, Marie Calendar and Tony the Tiger for the shoppers attention.
Notably there was one exception – Paul Newman – who not only had a passion for salad dressing but committed to forever giving 100% of the profits of Newman’s Own to charities. Paul cared about the foods he put his face on. In the early days, when they just had the salad dressing SKU, he would demand that one case from each batch be sent to his home. I witnessed him opening a case, then unscrewing the cap, and taking a swig of salad dressing. He was their primary taste tester and QA. He once told me a story he loved to share. He had just bought a Dodge Stealth – which was nothing more than a Mitsubishi 3000 with Dodge badges. He loved to drive fast and was pulled over for speeding on the West Side Highway in Manhattan. When the officer asked him for his license and registration, he looked and recognized Newman’s name and said so. Newman beamed proudly he said, was sure he would avoid the ticket for speeding, and he then asked the officer which of his movies he liked the best. The officer quickly gave Paul back his documents and swiftly wrote out a ticket muttering that he mistook him for the guy who made the popcorn and salad dressing and walked back to his patrol car.
Maybe in today’s world – as obsessed as we are with celebrities – we ask them to back off unless you are 100% committed to your food product we want you in the food world – but only if you care about the foods you are associated with. Do your perfume and car commercials – but stay out of our food aisles until you are, as consumers are faced with increasing prices, shortages and nutritional confusion and unless you are helping – you are hurting.