Hostess® is a Model for Heritage Brand Innovation

Hostess® celebrated their 100th anniversary as a company last year, with many of their most popular brands resonating with fans across generations. Few other food companies have such strong appeal with consumers ranging from young children to grandparents, and the fact that Hostess® is a heritage brand that is not afraid of innovation has contributed to their longevity and success.

Heritage brand leaders often have an “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” perspective towards their products. When an item has a devoted consumer following, it can be daunting to considering messing with a good thing (just look at what happened with New Coke). Hostess®, however, lays out a model that can be studied by executives working with any brand that has a long history and strong legacy.


Introducing New Varieties

Heritage brand leaders don’t need to touch their core popular products in order to innovate in interesting ways. One such solution is to expand the product line by adding exciting new varieties. For example, Hostess® just introduced a new strawberry cheesecake Donette® flavor – a variety that allows the company to keep up with new trends without compromising their classic flavors, such as powdered and chocolate frosted.

Modernize the Brand Through Extensions

Hostess® has been betting big on line extensions in recent years. Since the end of 2018, Hostess® has launched three cereal varieties with Post – Donettes®, Twinkies®, and Honey Bun® Cereal. These products have been released just as new data and industry wisdom suggests that cereal is increasingly consumed as a snack, rather than a breakfast item. Hostess®-branded cereal blends the two occasions, using the legacies of these classic snack brands to capitalize on consumer trends and generate new opportunities.

Through a partnership with Trilliant Food & Nutrition, Hostess has also extended their brands into the RTD latte category. According to Hostess® CMO Chad Lusk, “this partnership checks all the boxes in our continued efforts to innovate for our beloved core brands, as well as bring consumers more ways to enjoy our products. Whether one’s 2pm-slump antidote is a sweet snack or a coffee run, they no longer need to choose.”

This extension introduces a line of products that satisfy different consumer needs and behaviors than their core lines, which gives it a bit more purpose and reason-for-being than other extensions that serve primarily to adopt flavor trends. This is a strong example of innovation that keeps the heritage brand feeling fresh, exciting, and modern.

Heritage brand executives should not be afraid of branching out – in fact, innovation is the key to staying alive. While each brand will need to have a strategy that fits their own unique attributes, Hostess® provides a great blueprint for how heritage brands can grow and evolve without alienating the consumers that made the brand a success in the first place.

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