Hall of Lost Products

November 4, 2013

Anyone who has worked in advertising, particularly in packaged goods, has worked on a lot of products that never really made it. Some died in concept testing, some actually made it to test marketing in regional or local markets, and some made it national before admitting defeat.

I have worked on too many to count, and here are some:

Candid denture cleanser and toothpaste in one, in the photo, made it to test market in the US but was renamed as Complete.  It was made by Richardson Vick.  Turns out thought, folks preferred two separate cleaners if they had teeth and dentures.

Headway, also made by Richardson Vick, was akin to Nyquil, their highly successful multi-symptom cold cocktail.  Headway was also a liquid, but a multi-symptom night time sinus product.  The product made it to US test markets, we produced many commercials for it, but it turned out the narrowness of targeting intense sinus pain and night time was too narrow a slice to support the required volume.  The product name was later used by the company on another night time sinus remedy, but this time as a capsule and it made it to national release.

Prime Choice Steak Sauce was a product from Clorox Foods in the US that got to test markets, but did not have enough sales response to go national.

Jell-O Fast ‘n’ Fancy was a General Foods line extension in the US for pudding that contained a mix of nuts and crumbs to parfait with the pudding.  While it died in test market, I still remember a legal hurdle we had.  The commercial featured actor, Cyril Ritchard, famous for being Captain Hook in Peter Pan on Broadway.  It opened with Ritchard saying “One of my great joys in life is cooking…”; he then goes on to say that the new product made fancy desserts, fast.  The lawyers required us to have a letter on file, signed by Ritchard, confirming that “One of my great joys in life is cooking.”  And that was all the letter had to say.

We also did Pudding line extensions, most designated by acronym because the names were too long.  For example, there was JISSP (Jell-O Instant Single Serve Pudding), JTP (Jell-O Triple Pack) and, well you get the idea.  The objective was to always have at least one new product in the pipeline; and one in test market.

The Perfect Cup was a General Foods Canada product developed when people said they didn’t like the taste of decaf.  So this product was only half decaf.  But  that still wasn’t good enough.  So this product died based on taste — or lack of it.  Another  coffee brand was a chicory and coffee mix, Mellow Roast.  It sold for a few years and then slowly died.  I had also worked on Postum in the US and have to say that, as a non-coffee drinker, they all tasted pretty bad.

When I worked on General Mills cereals in Canada, we had a constant revolving door of what we called “topical” cereals.  These went from Strawberry Shortcake, PacMan, ET, and others who were launched with the intention of withdrawing them after about 9 months to a year in the market.  They were based on a topic or theme that we didn’t expect to be “evergreen” and last for very long.

Pesky little Strawberry Shortcake kept on going for a few years.  Maybe the cereal actually tasted good!

We were also always turning out new versions of Nature Valley Granola bars, in Clusters, Soft Cookies, and more flavours of each.  The road to success for these products always led through a forest of chocolate chips.  The more we added the more likely we would be successful while we wandered further and further from the original idea of granola being “better for you.”

We also churned out fruit leather products in all kinds of versions of Fruit Roll-Ups.  In fact I still have a box of product from the first case of Fruit Roll Ups for the Canadian market in 1984.

“New product development is a lot of fun and takes a lot of imagination.  The results can be great, but sometimes, not so much,” he said candidly.

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