CPG Marketing Trends: Are You 18 or Older? Have some Jell-O.

In a semi-ageist attempt to get adults eating Jell-O again, Kraft and its line of Jell-O Temptations treats may be on the cusp of a promising new consumer research tool: the high-tech vending machine.

The brand seeded devices called iSamples in Chicago and New York encouraging people to step up for free samples of Jell-O Temptations. Except the free samples aren’t for just anyone – they are for adults only. To get the samples, you have to pass a facial recognition scan.

If the person’s face appears to the scanner to be old enough, a free sample is dispensed. If their face looks too young, the iSample Experience flashes a cheeky warning sign with the caption, “Sorry, kid. You’re too young to experience indulgence like this. Please step away so the adults can get their free treat.”

Now, most would not put Jell-O in the category of other products that you shouldn’t be able to purchase until you’ve reached legal age. However, Kraft’s design in launching Jell-O Temptations last year was to fill a perceived void in the category. The treats are a grown-up version of the stuff you loved as a kid. Since the products hit stores, the brand has aggressively marketed them as just for grown-ups. The idea is that adult consumers will enjoy the product even more if they know it is off-limits to their kids, or kids in general.

News coverage of the machine has been cheeky as well – many wonder how accurate the scanner really is and if there will be any backlash from kids and/or their parents, especially since the iSamples are placed in family-friendly areas with lots of kids (Shedd Aquarium and South Street Seaport).

However, we’re also intrigued to see how the intelligence in these machines evolves. Intel is apparently looking to expand the camera’s sensing ability to see how people react to the samples. Do they smile when the machine dispenses their free treat? Do they frown when they actually taste it? Are the iSample and the copycats that may follow the next step in consumer research?

While the technology isn’t there yet, we’re betting it’s on its way and are excited to see where it takes us.


Brad is an expert in private label and challenger brand food marketing for Barkley, an integrated marketing and advertising agency. He specializes in working with manufacturing-driven food companies that have aspirations to develop a consumer insight-led strategies to help drive innovation and growth.

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