Bertolli USA: The Brand You Trust
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

Bertolli USA: The Brand You Trust

Despite Bertolli’s continued success and popularity, consumers need further education about the brand’s attributes especially when debating between purchasing the least expensive product or the brand they know and trust

Paul Holmes

Vorhaus & Company Inc. has worked with Bertolli USA (a Unilever company), currently the world’s leading producer and marketer of olive oil, since 1995 to build its brand awareness and encourage trial.  Bertolli has led the effort to elevate the brand and popularize the regular use of olive oil in everyday cooking through consistent public relations activities and participation in food industry and consumer events.  Market share has grown from year to year, and Bertolli remains number one in its category. 
Despite Bertolli’s continued success and popularity, consumers continually need further education about the brand’s varieties and unique attributes especially when debating between purchasing the least expensive product or the brand they know and trust – Bertolli.  In 2001, Bertolli and Vorhaus implemented a comprehensive branding campaign educating our target audience about Bertolli’s unique benefits.
Research/Planning Process/Objectives
Budgetary and calendar constraints were assessed to ensure maximum coverage for each audience within the scope of available resources (time, money and staff).  Key audiences included:  culinary professionals; consumers of all levels of culinary expertise/interest; members of the food, health and consumer media; registered dieticians, nutritionists and other health professionals; and grocery retail/trade (including chains, club stores, food service and food brokers).  This assessment included analyzing key industry events and media opportunities, which would help us to achieve maximum exposure, and establishing a Bertolli-owned event targeting culinary professionals and media.  The public relations activities were selected using Web research, informal polling, analysis of past media coverage and audience data provided by event organizers.  A timeline and plan were created.
Bertolli and Vorhaus had three overall objectives for the campaign:  build brand awareness and educate consumers about the unique benefits of Bertolli products; generate national, major market and food industry publicity; and increase trial and sales, specifically in target markets.
To achieve our objectives, we implemented the following strategies:
  • Provide continuous stream of brand information and story ideas to media
  • Leverage third-party experts to media
  • Offer expert information on the health benefits of cooking with olive oil
  • Participate in key culinary industry/consumer events
  • Create Bertolli-owned events in an effort to own a corner of the culinary industry

Campaign Execution
By implementing the Bertolli News Bureau, being involved in culinary industry/consumer events and creating a national Bertolli-owned event, we were able to reach our target audiences of media, industry influencers/professionals and consumers.  The following explains the activities conducted for each tactic.
Bertolli News Bureau
Monthly informational/recipe mailings – Distributed monthly mailings to long lead publications and daily and weekly newspapers nationwide, containing recipes and olive oil cooking tips.  Mailings included:  “Bertolli Olive Oil Presents Tasty Recipes to Complement the Traditional Thanksgiving Feast” and “Baking With Bertolli: Delectable Dessert Ideas For Holiday Soirees.”
Key industry spokespeople – Utilized prestigious and credible spokespeople like Riska Platt, MS, registered dietician and Nick Stellino, international chef, cookbook author and host of PBS’ “Nick Stellino’s Family Kitchen,” to deliver key Bertolli messages with media and at key industry events and conferences.
Information on the health benefits of cooking with olive oil – We kept abreast of new research on olive oil’s health benefits such as dietary fat intake and breast cancer risk studies, and offered R.Platt as an expert when media opportunities arose.  In addition, we produced The Olive Press (circ. 10,000), a quarterly newsletter, providing company information and health news, which was distributed to nutritionists, registered dieticians and health and nutrition media.
Culinary industry/consumer events – Bertolli sponsored and participated in several food industry events.  Depending upon the audience, Bertolli communicated with culinary professionals, influencers and consumers.  In addition, Vorhaus targeted food industry media and local market media, to leverage Bertolli’s involvement in each event.
Boston Cooks!   Key event about the latest trends and innovations in kitchen products and services, Bertolli exhibited and held informational demonstrations and discussions with N.Stellino and R.Platt.  Over 20,000 people, consumers and media, attended. 
Gastronomica Magazine Launch Event – Bertolli served as founding corporate sponsor.  Media attendance included the Wall Street Journal, Gourmet and New York Post.
The Book & the Cook, Philadelphia, PA – Nick Stellino appeared on behalf of Bertolli before 20,000 attendees.
The James Beard Journalism Awards and the James Beard Awards Gala – Culinary professionals and media attended.  Release on Bertolli award winners was distributed nationally.
IACP Annual Conference – For the seventh year in a row, Bertolli was the lead platinum sponsor for this organization with a worldwide membership of 4,500.
IACP Cookbook Awards – Release on Sally James, winner in the Bertolli Health and Special Diet Category for her book, Fresh & Healthy, was distributed nationally.
Bertolli also supports the following culinary organizations:  The American Institute of Wine and Food, Council of Independent Restaurants in America, James Beard Foundation and Les Dames d’Escoffier.
Bertolli owned-events
First Annual Bertolli Sous Chef Awards – Vorhaus and Bertolli saw an opportunity for Bertolli to own a corner of the culinary industry by implementing a nationwide competition, recognizing the unsung heroes of the culinary world – Sous Chefs.  We organized the entire competition including receiving nominations, naming food celebrity judges and selecting the 10 finalists.  We then conducted proactive media relations before, during and after the Sous Chef Awards, targeting national, local and key food and consumer media.  In August 2001, the competition culminated in an awards media reception.  We furthered media outreach efforts by distributing b-roll from the event via satellite, which was picked up in the local markets of each Sous Chef. 
Passionate Pairings Media Dinner at Sotheby’s – Just as wines can be paired with different foods, wines can also be paired with foods prepared with different olive oils.  To illustrate this, Bertolli held an event at the world-famous Sotheby’s auction house and hosted by Nick Stellino, featuring a four-course gourmet dinner prepared with varieties of Bertolli Olive Oil and paired with select Bolla Wines.  Thirty food and wine editors from targeted high-end publications attended.
Results Summary
Through the Bertolli News Bureau, participation in key culinary events and Bertolli-hosted events, we reached all of our key audiences and beyond.  As a result, we achieved our objective of building brand awareness and educating consumers about the unique benefits of Bertolli products.
We generated national, major market and food industry publicity with overall impressions totaling more than 36,461,953.  The News Bureau’s efforts resulted in over 17,183,308 impressions including Bertolli recipes in such publications as the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and the Tucson Citizen.  In addition, The Olive Press was distributed to over 10,000 individuals. 
Further media attention was garnered from the First Annual Bertolli Sous Chef Awards.  In its first year, the Awards yielded national publicity as well as coverage from the food industry media, local media in each of the Sous Chefs’ markets and online media such as The Wall Street Journal, Food and Wine Magazine, Chef Magazine, WNYW-TV (FOX) in New York, WFLA-TV (NBC) in Sarasota, FL, The New York Times (Westchester Edition), The Tampa Tribune, The Providence Journal and  As of October 1, 2001, the grand total readership/viewership combined is 19,278,645, with additional media hits pending.  (A highlights reel is enclosed.)
Additionally, through attendance at and sponsorship of culinary industry and consumer events, Bertolli came into personal contact with more than 200,000 individuals.
For the time period, Nielsen data show total pound sales to supermarkets up 7.5% with club store sales up 4.7%.  In the Bertolli Sous Chef Awards markets (Boston, New York, Detroit, Memphis, San Francisco, Indianapolis and Tampa), total sales from May through October were up 14.6%.

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