Mrs. Dash Tailgating Its Way to Gridiron Gains

Brand reaches out to a new demo with its salt-conscious messaging

Mrs. Dash, maker of no-salt spice blends, is reaching beyond the health-conscious baby boomer crowd to target a younger demographic at massive college tailgate parties, where beer and salty snacks are the status quo.

The spice company is launching a marketing campaign next month to promote its four-month-old line of seasoning packets for tacos, chili and other dishes.

Offering food samples to tailgating football fans at the University of Texas vs. Ole Miss game in Austin and the Nebraska vs. Michigan game in Ann Arbor will be a serious test for the company’s healthy, no-salt positioning. “When people taste the dishes we offer, they are very surprised there is no salt," said brand manager Joe Villiano. Mrs. Dash is partnering with local gridiron heroes and area radio stations to generate more chatter at the football games, which each attract about 100,000 fans. The brand’s Facebook page, with more than 560,000 "likes," will also support the tailgating push.

But will the spices-beat-salt message be a Hail Mary pass in the junk-food mecca of spectator sports?

"At first glance, college tailgate parties could seem like a disconnect for a brand like this," said Brannon Cashion, global president of Addison Whitney, a branding consultancy. "But then you remember that this audience wants their food to taste better, and some of them are paying more attention to fresh, healthy ingredients."

If Mrs. Dash wants to win this group over, “its primary positioning needs to be flavor and ease of use,” rather than anti-salt, Cashion said.

In addition to wooing the tailgating crowds, the new marketing campaign will include ads in People magazine and food-related print publications and on food, lifestyle, and health-focused websites. The campaign will run until the end of 2013.

When Unilever sold Mrs. Dash to B&G Foods in November 2011, the spice brand had annual sales of about $50 million and flat growth. In 2012, sales increased moderately, with sharper growth expected this year, said Villiano. In April, Mrs. Dash also relaunched its line of liquid marinades, with more intensely flavored recipes and lower prices.

Sodium reduction for young people is also gaining ground in the national agenda, with nutrition experts at the Harvard School of Public Health, the American Heart Association and the Center for Science in the Public Interest calling on the U.S. government to lower the upper limit of daily-recommended sodium intake from 2,300 milligrams per day to 1,500.