Reversed Declining Sales
for a Beloved Brand

Russell Stover Sugar Free Chocolates 360° Brand Development

The State of the Brand

The popular U.S. chocolate company had reached First & Only and then Dominant by Default status for its sugar-free line. Russell Stover Sugar Free was aimed at longtime customers who faced health issues like diabetes that restricted their dietary choices; it literally invented the category. Russell Stover had the recipe and the distribution and the audience — but a host of new competitors flooding the market sent the brand into a 3-year sales decline, and it was struggling to secure shelf space at important retail outlets. This once-dominant brand was now at the troubled One of Many stage in the brand lifecycle.

How We Helped

The brand team came to us for help repositioning Russell Stover Sugar Free as a natural brand, but the ingredient deck included a number of “no-nos” for natural products. We persuaded them instead to make a single ingredient swap that would appease consumers looking for a “better-than” sugar free chocolate.

Importantly, the consumer insights we unearthed during our 360° Brand Development showed that the original packaging and positioning as a diabetic-friendly product signaled “diet” and deprivation. The product felt like more a consolation prize than a treat. At the same time, preferences were shifting as consumers began to pay more attention to ingredient labels, and the switch from artificial sugar alcohols to stevia was an important step in attracting a broader audience. Consumers told us they’d rather reduce their chocolate intake than eat a product with artificial ingredients.

We repositioned the brand as “America’s Favorite” sugar free chocolate — celebrating the joy of chocolate in a way that everyone can enjoy. The updated formula appealed both to younger shoppers seeking a sensible treat and to older customers seeking a product that tasted great and met their dietary needs.

The Results

Talk about a turnaround. Russell Stover Sugar Free reversed its precipitous sales decline in just 12 months, producing 33% growth over that period. Retailers were thrilled with the uptick in velocity. The brand now consistently ranks #1 in the category in a host of metrics, including velocity, repeat customers, and dollar volume. It has become a Beloved & Dominant brand.

  • Unleashed our 360° Brand Strategy Development, Audit & Analysis, Audience Insights, Research & Insights, Brand Positioning, Visual Strategy.

  • Guided the brand to a broader audience of younger, health-minded consumers.

  • Developed a fresh, appetizing packaging system that emphasizes the brand’s position as “America’s Favorite” chocolate.

  • Reversed a 3-year sales decline in less than a year.

  • Reinvigorated a brand that now dominates the category in a range of metrics.

“Great impact on shelf, and the new design change combined with the new recipe has buyers excited (Walmart included!).”

– Marjolaine DeClaviere, VP Marketing, Russell Stover

We helped Russell Stover change their ingredient deck to entice millennial consumers and reverse a sales decline. What’s your brand’s growth challenge?

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