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9 lessons learned from a massive natural food rebrand

8 lessons learned from GO Veggies massive natural food rebrand
Chart your rebranding course with advice from dairy-free category leader Galaxy Nutritional Foods and its new GO Veggie! brand.

Over the course of its 30-year history, non-dairy cheese category leader Galaxy Nutritional Foods has launched lots of brands. At least five, in fact: Veggie, Rice Vegan, Vegan, Rice and Veggy.

Two years ago, executives at Galaxy realized that its fragmented brands were creating confusion, specifically around which of its products were casein-free or not, said Jaime Schapiro, director of marketing. Through eight focus groups and much two-way mirror gazing, plus a national Attitude and Usage Study involving 865 people, Galaxy solidified its strategy: rebrand to build a relationship with consumers around the promise of helping them enjoy cheesy foods.

What makes Galaxy unique is its product mix. New product launches have focused on dairy-free and vegan offerings, while previous products have been lactose-free, containing casein. The new brand clearly distinguishes all product lines:

  • Purple for dairy-free/vegan
  • Blue for the soy-free, lactose-free Rice brand sold in Whole Foods Market.This product line is Galaxy's top-seller across its portfolio.
  • Green for lactose-free (sold only in conventional channel) 

Meet the new all-encompassing brand GO Veggie! juxtaposed with the packaging's old look.

GO Veggie! Dairy Free Veggie Shreds

GO Veggie! rice rebrand

GO Veggie! Lactose Free Rebrand

A dairy-free coming out

"At GO Veggie! everyone has a seat at the table," said Schapiro. "Vegans, flexitarians, [those with] food allergies or the guy who's just trying to lower his cholesterol by cutting back on dairy." Another inclusiveness bonus: The company is also pursuing Non-GMO Project Verification, as its purple dairy-free products are already non-GMO.

Galaxy Nutritional Foods held its coming out party Jan. 24 at the Spork Foods kitchen in West Hollywood. Heather Goldberg and Jenny Engel—Spork Foods sisters and Chef Ambassadors for GO Veggie! Dairy Free—served up vegan appetizers using the newly rebranded GO Veggie! shreds.

A who's-who of dairy-free gathered around a demo and tasting of Caprese Style Grilled Cheese, from The Cooking Channel's first vegan chef Jason Wrobel to VegNews magazine and's Alisa Fleming—and yes, this newhope360 vegan editor.

Top tips for natural products rebranding

Galaxy's Schapiro shares his top tips for other natural brands looking to strategically realign with consumer needs.

1. It takes time to relaunch a natural brand; stay the course.

Appealing to a broad demographic with alternative cheese products is an undertaking. Schapiro breaks down the two-year rebranding process—from concept to launch.

  • Under the guidance of a new leadership team, Galaxy began examining its existing brand identity in the fall of 2010.
  • Extensive research started in January 2011 and was completed six months later.
  • The GO Veggie! brand name was agreed upon in February 2012.
  • Packaging redesign began that same month and was completed six months later.
  • Beginning in the fall of 2012, Galaxy worked to define its full brand identity and promise.
  • The launch of Galaxy's new brand in the natural channel began in late 2012.

2. Give special attention to transparent packaging.

GO Veggie!'s new packaging comes in three colors: green, purple and blue so that "consumers no longer have to question if a product is lactose free or dairy free, vegan," said Schapiro. The company chose to place "contains casein" on the front of package, even though it wasn't required by FDA. Likewise for "vegan" on the front of the dairy-free packaging, a term which doesn't necessarily mean a product is vegan.

3. Choose an empowering brand name.

Galaxy's research revealed that the former Veggie brand resonated with consumers, so they kept the brand equity and added an action-oriented component. "The new brand name captures the essence and spirit around the ability to say 'Yes, I can eat cheesy foods and the way you do that is by going veggie,'" said Schapiro. "We could have come up with a different name, but there's a lot of risk there."

See Are you the right entrepreneur to bring your brand to market?

4. Take the opportunity to reformulate.

"The cost of changing plates for new packaging is quite expense, and it's a good business decision to combine a reformulation at the same time as a rebranding," said Schapiro, but "if the product tastes great, there is no need to change it during a rebranding." To improve taste, Galaxy mainly reformulated the conventionally sold GO Veggie! Lactose Free Slices.

5. Prepare to invest.

Rebranding is a substantial investment, so Galaxy capitalized these costs over time so that expenses don't hit all at once, noted Schapiro. One of the biggest expenses to get right? Proper research and development.

6. Secure your trademark.

Once Galaxy settled on a unique brand name, the company was able to easily secure a trademark over the course of several months. "Since our company name didn't give us the brand equity, and because we couldn't get the trademark of just 'Veggie' or 'Vegan,' we wanted to ensure our new brand name had a solid trademark," said Schapiro. "The word 'Veggie' was too generic and it could never be a trademark for us."

For other companies, he recommends making sure the trademark covers a variety of product categories that you intend to expand into. "You don't want to secure a new trademark and find out later it's not valid in a new product extension," he said.

7. Switch your social media accounts and clearly communicate the changes.

GO Veggie!'s former social media accounts used the company name, Galaxy Nutritional Foods. Because the average consumer knew the brands and not the company, the rebranding prompted a full social media makeover as well. "You want to make sure your social media accounts follow the same format as the brand equity you want to build," said Schapiro.

Strategies the company took:

  • Working closely with an account representative to switch the Facebook Page name and keep the entire community.
  • Losing the @GalaxyFoods name on Twitter and creating a new handle @GoVeggieFoods, mapping over existing followers to the new account. Caveat: "People may still try to use our old Twitter handle name, but it no longer exists," said Schapiro. "We've decided to spend media dollars on Twitter to help drive awareness of our new handle and so people know about the new @GOVeggieFoods account."

To communicate the switch, Galaxy planned specific posts in the months prior to switching its account names to begin vetting reaction from fans about the new GO Veggie! brand. "Once we changed the site name, we didn't receive any complaints or see a decline in fans or followers," said Schapiro. "We've had a very positive reaction so far to the new Facebook name. In reality, we think our community didn't relate well to the name Galaxy Nutritional Foods, but related to our content and engagement.

8. Don't wait to launch new products while rebranding old ones.

During the two-year rebranding, Galaxy launched new products, such as its Dairy-Free Shreds and Dairy-Free Strawberry Cream Cheese. These new products drove momentum for the manufacturer with retailers in both the natural and conventional channels. Plus, getting on shelves with a new UPC is the first hurdle; changing packaging after the fact (unless you reformulate, which creates a new UPC) creates no extra work for the retailer.

9. Communicate your brand's new packaging at shelf with sticky coupons.

To help consumers make the connection from old to new, Galaxy will have brokers apply peelable stickers to its GO Veggie! blue and purple packages sold in the natural channel. Along with communicating the name change, consumers will also receive .55 off, said Schapiro.

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