Food manufacturer HJ Heinz is active in more than 60 export markets
around the world.
Last month (April), to meet a growing fashion for Western products, the
company decided to launch its famous Baked Beans in China. While Heinz
is only anticipating sales of around 1.2 million cans in the first year
- Britons consume 1.5 million a day - it saw this as an opportunity to
enhance its corporate reputation in the UK. Heinz approached its
retained agency, Holmes and Marchant Counsel to create a suitable PR
campaign around the product.
To publicise Heinz Baked Beans and raise UK awareness that the company
is a major exporting force, exploiting new markets.
Holmes and Marchant realised that the UK media, would not take a ’Baked
Beans to launch in China’ story too seriously. So to push the idea as
good news for Heinz and British industry, it needed to package the
The agency homed in on the idea that a potenial 1.2 billion Chinese
people, famous for exporting dishes such as chow mein, would now get a
taste of one of the UK’s favourite foods.
As Sundays are usually a quiet day for hard news, the story was sold
into the national press as a ’Sunday for Monday’ item.
On 23 March, a photocall was held at the New Hoo Wah restaurant in
London’s Chinatown. Holmes and Marchant persuaded the Press Association
to cover the event and got the story and photography out on the PA
newswire. The following Monday, Heinz spokesman Steve Marinker, fielded
enquiries from the UK broadcast, regional and business press.
Coverage was achieved in all the national newspapers apart from the
The story received a full-page in the Express, while the Guardian turned
it into a ’Pass Notes’ column. In addition, Holmes and Marchant estimate
the campaign achieved around ten minutes of national television coverage
and an hour’s worth of radio interviews and news items. This included a
slot on ITV’s This Morning and a review on the Clive James Show.
Regional interest ranged from Glasgow to Guernsey, with many local
newspapers taking the story and photography from the PA newswire.
For a campaign that only cost pounds 500, the results were
extraordinary. The media loved the pictures of the new Chinese product
labelling and New Hoo Wah waiter, Edwin Chiew eating Heinz baked beans
with chop sticks.
In addition, the idea that Britain was repaying the favour of such
culinary greats as aromatic crispy duck with the humble baked bean, went
down a storm.
Not unexpectedly, the allegedly ’windy’ nature of the Heinz product also
received a good airing in the tabloids and regional press. But, Heinz
itself featured strongly in all media coverage as an innovative
exporter, as did the nutritional value of its baked beans.
Client: HJ Heinz
PR Team: Holmes and Marchant Counsel
Campaign: Launch of Heinz Baked Beans into China
Timescale: March - April 1998
Cost: pounds 500