SINCE 1988

Restaurant CPG Enters the TikTok Era with Products Created to go Viral


While restaurants have been selling their products in supermarkets and convenience stores for decades — from frozen White Castle sliders to TGI Fridays mozzarella sticks — recently, foodservice CPG has entered a new social media-conscious era.

Recently, Starbucks collaborated with Stanley (the makers of the uber-popular insulated tumbler) to sell a $49.95 “Winter Pink” 40-ounce Starbucks cobranded cup, available exclusively at Target on Jan. 3 to celebrate the new Starbucks winter menu. Collaborating with multiple trendy brands to market a limited-edition item to the core Gen. Z demographic was a recipe for virality: Long lines of customers waited outside of Target before dawn to grab their tumblers (limited to a few dozen per Target location), and the coveted cups are already reselling for $350 on eBay.

This is not the first time Starbucks has partnered with Stanley to release a tumbler; there have been two other cobranded limited-edition cups in the past. However, these were not exclusively sold at Target, so they were not quite as rare as these bright pink editions. Target received a similar overwhelming reaction to two non-Starbucks-branded red and pink Galentine’s Day Stanley cups that dropped on Dec. 31, which have also been quickly selling out.

Starbucks clarified with NBC Today that the company will not be restocking the tumblers even though they are aware of the “enthusiastic response to the Starbucks x Stanley Quencher and many stores have sold out.”

Creating CPG products that not only resonate with customers but also inspire them to wait in hours-long lines to procure these products might not be possible to recreate with every retail product or collaboration, but Starbucks’ clear appeal to the TikTok generation is a good start. The limited-edition item in partnership with a popular brand available in a bright pink color that draws the eye sparks that “gotta have it” mentality (that comes with subsequent social media bragging rights).

Although it’s nearly impossible to manufacture a viral moment like this, brands can certainly try. Taco Bell is not a brand to shy away from smart marketing ideas geared toward a younger demographic. In October, the Yum Brands company named Kraft Heinz its primary retail manufacturer and committed to producing more creative CPG products, like an SOS kit for students, which comes with Taco Bell sauces, taco shells, and stain resistant TwinXL-sized bed sheets. The kit is aimed at college students and was inspired by the viral TikTok category, Taco Bell in Bed, as NRN previously reported – a smart reference that lets Taco Bell fans know the brand is tapped into social media trends.

Most recently, Taco Bell just released Mountain Dew Baja Blast in stores to celebrate the drink’s 20th anniversary. Baja Blast is usually only available in Taco Bell, though the soda has been sold in retail stores a few times in the past, usually for a very short, limited time. This time around, PepsiCo is bringing Baja Blast to retail stores for an entire year for the first time ever. In another announcement this week, Taco Bell at Home released Crunchwrap Supreme and Chipotle Chicken Quesadilla Cravings Kits in collaboration with Walmart for customers to create these menu fan favorites at home. Both Baja Blast and the Crunchwrap Supreme are two of the most popular Taco Bell menu items, so it was smart for Taco Bell to use them to expand its retail presence.

“Our goal is to provide as many access points to our brand as possible that will allow fans to engage with Taco Bell in a way that reflects their unique preferences,” Matt Prince, a representative for Taco Bell, told Nation’s Restaurant News. “If we do that successfully and provide the literal ingredients of what makes our brand so unique, we have a recipe for authentic engagement in home and online.”

Chick-fil-A has gone a similar route with its recent foray into CPG. Last year, the company doubled down on its retail lineup by introducing more bottled sauces with corresponding merchandise marketed toward Chick-fil-A customers that can’t get enough of the brand’s dipping sauces. By the end of 2023, customers were able to get barbecue, sweet & spicy sriracha, honey mustard, zesty buffalo, garden herb ranch, Polynesian and Chick-fil-A sauces in participating Walmart and Target stores across the country.

Chick-fil-A is smart to let its sauces lead the company’s new retail presence: the company’s original sauce and many of the others are wildly popular and famous for being so addicting.  By bringing these items into stores, customers can also interact with (and share on social media) a brand’s products in new places, like using Chick-fil-A sauce to recreate the brand’s chicken sandwich at home.

Taken all together, a recipe for CPG success in 2024 just may be an emphasis on at-home versions of beloved products, smart collaborations with outside companies, and keeping an eye and ear out for social media trends.


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