May 19, 2020

Six of the worst food product ideas ever

Sumit Modi
3 min
Six of the worst food product ideas ever

KFC has created its own fried chicken-scented sunscreen. Yes, you read that correctly.

The distinctly non-edible protective cream has been released as a novelty promotion. The company was offering free bottles on its website, but fast food fans have already scooped up all 3,000 of them.

What KFC did right was offer the sunscreen for free – many companies release a novelty product expecting consumers to pay good money for it, leading to often spectacular failure.

Here are some of the biggest companies’ worst product ideas ever:

Vegetable Jell-O

Jell-O is the biggest producer of gelatine-based desserts in the US, but it wasn’t always so popular. Following on from the enormous rise of salads (including, bizarrely, a trend for congealed salads in the 1930s), the company released a range of savory jelly flavors, including mixed vegetable, seasoned tomato, Italian, and celery. Unsurprisingly, these flavors joined the Jell-O rejection graveyard soon enough.

Heinz EZ Squirt

Many of us can recall this particular flop, as Heinz released blue, green, purple, and ‘mystery color’ versions of its classic ketchup recipe. While the fun colors and easy-to-use bottle appealed to kids and were initially popular, customers quickly lost interest. Thankfully for Heinz, the original red sauce remains as well-loved as ever.

Gerber Singles

One of the most impressively disastrous food marketing flops of all time, Gerber Singles were marketed towards students and single adults, supposedly removing any shame from those tempted by delicious-looking jars of baby food. The concept – and certainly the name – proved distasteful to pretty much everybody, and Gerber Singles became synonymous with failure, oft-referenced in popular culture for that reason.

Kellogg’s Breakfast Mates

It’s a lovely idea – a small package of cereal, a tiny carton of milk, and a plastic spoon all in one convenient box to stuff in your backpack when time is short. The problem was that this solution wasn’t really all that convenient; Breakfast Mates produced a lot of waste, and the surgically-packaged lukewarm milk containers proved unappealing. Kellogg’s spent $30 million on advertising this spectacular failure.

Orbitz Water

The Clearly Canadian Beverage Corporation created this soft drink/lava lamp hybrid in 1997, which was a fruit-flavoured liquid filled with floating spheres of gelatine. While it seemed appealing from a purely decorative point of view, customers found the concept of a chewy beverage less than tempting, and many reports claim that even the texture of the liquid itself resembled cough syrup.

Lay’s WOW chips

In 1998, Lay’s released a range of almost fat-free chips. At a time when consumers were increasingly concerned about the nutritional properties of their snacks, sales went wild, and they became the best-selling new product in the US. The downside? The fat alternative used to make the chips caused stomach cramps and diarrhea. The company was forced include a warning on its packaging in 2003, and WOW was rebranded as ‘Light’. The range has since been discontinued.


Follow @BizReviewUSA and @NellWalkerMG

Read the August issue of Business Review USA & Canada here

Share article

Jun 13, 2021

Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl

Kate Birch
5 min
Former CMO for IBM Americas Maria Bartolome Winans was recently named CMO for Kyndryl. Maria talks about her new role and her leadership style

Former Chief Marketing Officer for IBM Americas, and an IBM veteran of more than 25 years, Maria Bartolome Winans was recently named CMO for Kyndryl.

Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.

With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.

You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?

I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.

We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.

What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?

I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.

The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.

I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.

What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?

When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.

What does success look like to you?

I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.

What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?

I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.

Share article