Stranger Things is an increasingly rare pop culture phenomenon where seemingly everybody is on board with loving the kids of Hawkins and their inability to avoid Lovecraftian alternate-dimension nightmare monsters. That extends, apparently, to Eleven’s love of Eggos (arguably the best storebought breakfast food). Because with no new episodes until at least 2019, Eggo is struggling to keep consumers’ attention.
To be fair, the frozen waffle brand has the same problem a lot of packaged foods are struggling with: Shifting consumer tastes moving away from prepackaged food, new competitors that are more nimble, and companies like Amazon getting into the grocery game and pushing down margins. But Stranger Things created an Eggo bump, since Eleven loves those golden discs, making Eggo temporarily immune to those woes. At least until the streaming stopped:
For the four weeks ending May 19, Kellogg’s (K) frozen waffles, pancakes, and French toast sales grew just 1.3% from a year earlier, according to Nielsen. That’s a steep drop from the 9.4% average growth for Eggos during the first four months of 2018, and 14% jump during the fourth quarter of 2017… Eggo sales had been declining prior to “Stranger Things”‘ 2016 debut, but surged after as the show first aired.
Stranger Things gave Eggo a lot of promotion beyond product placement, to the point of using a classic ad to anchor their Super Bowl spot, so this isn’t entirely just thanks to binge-watching. And it’s worth noting the show surprised everybody with its merch sales, which might make Netflix $1 billion a year in the long run. Eggo was in the right place at the right time, to say the least.
Still, it underscores the problems brands like Eggo face. Stranger Things did for Eggo what most brands, food or not, are struggling to achieve these days: Making customers even remember that they exist. As audiences fragment, consumer budgets tighten, and production costs drop, niche products that cater to specific needs are becoming more visible and available, and older brands just fade into the background. The food industry is changing, fast, and not even the coolest product placement is ultimately going to save companies that can’t keep up.