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How to Successfully Launch a New Product During a Global Pandemic


With over half of Canadians looking to reduce their meat consumption to make more sustainable choices for themselves and their families, plant-based dishes are on the rise in popularity.

While the numbers of consumers turning to vegetarian and veganism is on the rise, many Canadian customers are looking to incorporate more plant-based into their diet, while still eating meat.

This trend has led Maple Leaf Foods to launch their innovative Maple Leaf 50/50TM fusion protein products.

Sustainability has always been a core value for Maple Leaf. In 2019, Maple Leaf became the first major carbon-neutral food company in the world by setting science-based emissions targets. Maple Leaf Foods’ commitment to the environment comes from a recognition that producing nutrient-dense protein takes resources, and our company has a responsibility to replenish the environment in equal measure. This commitment to sustainability is reflected in the packaging for Maple Leaf 50/50TM products, which includes a fully recyclable sleeve and plastic tray, and bears the Carbon Zero logo, acknowledging our accomplishment of achieving carbon neutrality. We are proud to share our commitment to sustainability with our consumers.

Made with 50% premium meat and 50% plant-based and natural ingredients, Maple Leaf 50/50™ is a direct response to Canadian consumers who want to reduce their meat consumption without giving it up completely.

COVID-19 has changed the way consumers think, shop, and eat. And the launch strategy for Maple Leaf 50/50™ needed to reflect this. “We wanted our launch campaign for Maple Leaf 50/50™ to connect with and bring Canadians together in a time when we are all craving connection,” says D’Arcy Finley, VP of Marketing at Maple Leaf Foods. “The goal was to reach our audience where they are already seeking out meal inspiration, and we did that through a combination of mass media, digital, social and influencers.”

Here are the three marketing strategy pillars from D’Arcy Finley that Maple Leaf followed when launching their new product during COVID-19.

Jump on the emerging trend of Tik-Tok

Maple Leaf 50/50™ was developed in response to Canadians’ interest in plant-based protein, and we wanted the launch campaign to be equally reflective of the way Canadians live, work, eat and connect. We saw that TikTok was emerging as a gathering place for Canadian families, especially as they stayed at home this spring, and we wanted to show the reality of Canadian family life in the creative for Maple Leaf 50/50™.

The TikTok medium naturally showcases self-expression, and the Maple Leaf 50/50™ spot ‘Split Decisions’ highlights the real-life decisions families make about their eating habits. Similar to other Maple Leaf commercials, it was developed to be relatable for families, and particularly during this climate, it was a way to show the power of social media to keep families informed and engaged.

Connect with your audience through authentic partnerships

Social influencers have become a trusted source of recommendation for Canadians seeking meal and recipe inspiration. This became even more apparent during the lockdown, when consumers were looking for meal ideas to keep the whole family happy, healthy and nourished while staying at home. We leveraged social media partnerships with engaging parenting and foodie influencers to showcase how Maple Leaf 50/50TM fits seamlessly into busy family life and is a delicious, nutritious and satisfying option to traditional meat that doesn’t compromise on taste. 

To ensure we engaged consumers from coast to coast, we partnered with grilling experts, Maddie and Kiki, on a series of broadcast segments. The duo shared how to incorporate Maple Leaf 50/50TM into easy, delicious and crowd-pleasing summer grilling recipes.

via Instagram

These influencers were instrumental in providing the real, simple and authentic tone that is distinctly Maple Leaf to our campaign and showcased the many ways to grill with and enjoy Maple Leaf 50/50™ products. 

Create conversation through virtual events

Summer grilling season was an essential part of our program and the overall theme of our campaign. When social distancing became a reality, we had to adapt to the situation and find a way to connect with Canadians virtually to celebrate what makes grilling season so great. 

We partnered with Chef Vanessa Gianfrancesco to host a series of Live Chats on Instagram and Facebook to inspire consumers to change up their summer grilling routines with Maple Leaf 50/50™. The Live Chats provided an opportunity for us to share good food, good conversation and good health directly with our loyal brand fans and come together to celebrate summer grilling in a safe and socially distanced way. 

Launching during the COVID-19 pandemic was a unique marketing consideration that presented its own set of challenges for our team to navigate. Our creative idea lent itself to socially distanced production, and our team worked remotely to help develop all the creative for the campaign. We also had to reassess the tactics we activate to introduce a new product, like in-store sampling or launch events, due to concerns about consumer safety. Ultimately, it was an exercise in adaptability, and we were happy to provide inspiration and connection to Canadians this summer as we encouraged them to fire up the grill with Maple Leaf 50/50™.

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