The Top 5 CPG Brand Pivots of All-Time
Updated: Aug 8
When a company pivots, the results can end up being life-changing. Throughout history, we have seen some fascinating case studies that significantly changed and even created whole new categories.
The ingenuity, stamina, and sheer luck that goes into them are mesmerizing. Some are pressure-driven, others opportunistic. But all end up being serendipitous.
Here are the Top 5 Consumer Packaging Goods pivots of all time.
#5 - Play-Doh
Play-Doh started out as Kutol, a post-depression 1930's wall cleaner company. This cleaner specialized in removing the dark residue left on walls by coal heaters. By the late-1940s, they were losing market share and sales declined by nearly 90% due to new oil and gas heaters hitting the market. Desperate for a new way to make money, the owner discovered that his sister-in-law, Kay Zufall had been using the cleaner for her nursery school arts & crafts. They changed the name, added food coloring and the almond scent and the rest is history. Genius.
#4 -KIND Bar
Daniel Lubetzky started PeaceWorks in 1994 with a vision of fostering Middle East peace through sales of Mediterranean foods that included hummus. By 2002, he had built up a large product portfolio but little revenue. In 2003, they conducted market research that revealed a sizable consumer need for a transparent, nut-based bar, and KIND became their Consumer Need Pivot. By 2012, sales reached $125MM. In 2020 Kind sold to Mars for $5 Billion.
#3 - Udi's:
Udi's started in 1994 as Udi the Sandwich Man cafes in Denver. In 2008, Chad White, a local gluten-free bread baker who had been struggling with expanding store distribution joined forces with Barron Udi. This created the perfect Value Capture Pivot. Together they scaled Udi's Gluten-Free to $60MM by 2012 when they sold to Boulder Brands for $125MM. A good example of a Value Capture Pivot.
#2 - Colgate
Colgate started as a soap company in 1806 by William Colgate. His son took over and in 1873 entered the oral hygiene category via an "Engine of Growth" pivot. Colgate's popularity took off in the 1950s behind the groundbreaking slogan "It Cleans Your Breath While It Cleans Your Teeth", written by the amazing copywriter Alicia Tobin.
#1 - Wrigley
Wrigley started as a soap Co in 1891. They began giving away Baking Powder with each soap purchase. Then, Baking Powder became more popular, so they pivoted to this. And, began giving away gum with each Baking Powder purchase. By 1893, gum was even more favored than BP, so they went all-in on it. The BEST example of Value Capture pivoting, TWICE!
For the best book and article on Pivots read this very helpful piece by "Eric Ries: 10 Classic Strategies For A Fast, User-Focused Company Reboot. Eric catalogs 10 flavors of pivot that startups can use to revive their fortunes. But they’re applicable to businesses both new and old. It is the second excerpt from The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses also by Eric Ries. To read the first installment, go here."
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About Greg Fleishman
I start, nurture, & fund Better-for-You CPG Brands that help make the world healthier as Co-Founder/CEO @foodstirs with Sarah Michelle Gellar | Founder @purelyrighteous, a top venture studio | Co-Founder @uptogoodenergy | Co-Founder @eatunion | Board Director for Lily's Sweets (exited to Hershey’s June 2021), Once Upon a Farm with Jennifer Garner, 4th & Heart Ghee, Nuun Hydration (exited to Nestle June 2021), & Demeter Biodynamic Farming USA | Venture Partner, Springdale Ventures | Operating Partner, Cambridge SPG VC | Operating Partner, Whipstitch Capital Investment Bank + Angel/LP Investor | Ex-Kashi, Kellogg, Coca-Cola | Forbes Top Consumer Catalyst | Visit Fata & Fleishman CPG Mentorship, a free support platform for early-stage entrepreneurs & investors.