From bouillon cubes to plant-based meat-hacks, flavour has always been the magic ingredient in Knorr’s culinary creations. We take a closer look at this 185-year success story.
How it started
Knorr’s success story started with lunch.
Or rather the search for appetising, quick and nutritious midday meals for workers in Carl Heinrich Knorr’s factory in Heilbronn Germany, which in 1838 was dedicated to supplying chicory to the coffee market.
Having identified this gap in the market, Carl Heinrich Knorr began to experiment with drying vegetables and spices in order to preserve both their nutritional content and their flavour.
By 1873 he was ready to share his culinary innovations with the world and the first Knorr dried soups began to be sold across continental Europe.
It was the beginning of a success story that would see the brand expand quickly, with a pre-cooked foods range introduced in 1885, followed by sauce mixes in 1908.
Then, in 1912, the bouillon cube was launched. It was a milestone moment, as this small square of flavour would quickly become the brand’s trademark product and a bestseller across the decades.
How it’s going
Today, Knorr is the world’s fifth-largest consumer packaged goods brand, enjoying year-on-year growth since 2020, thanks both to its retail division that accounts for 70% of the business and to a professional range of products that supports Unilever’s food service business, Unilever Food Solutions (UFS).
Knorr’s bouillon/stock cubes are undoubtedly drivers of this growth. With 600 cubes sold every minute, it is not surprising that they have become a staple in both home and professional kitchens all over the world.
And they are not alone. It is estimated that a Knorr product is chosen from the brand’s extensive range 3 billion times a year.
Now available in 95 countries globally, Knorr’s key markets are found in the US, Germany, Mexico, Indonesia, the Philippines, Canada, France, South Africa, Poland, Pakistan, Thailand and China.
A leader across most of these markets, the key to Knorr’s international success lies in its ‘glocal’ (global/local) hybrid approach , which leverages the brand’s global food technologies into tailoring products to meet local and regional taste profiles.
The bouillon cube offers a great example. In addition to its core chicken cube, Knorr currently has over 180 active alternative chicken bouillon recipes on the market, each tailored to meet specific geographical taste preferences.
In Mexico, for example, chicken cubes are enhanced with the herbs and spices that are especially favoured in Latin American cooking. These include chicken and chipotle, and chicken and coriander/cilantro variations.
The brand takes a similar ‘glocal’ approach to serving consumer bases with specific dietary requirements. In the Netherlands, for instance, Knorr has launched a range of traditional, halal-certified soups such as Chorba and Harira in order to better serve the country’s significant Muslim community.
But it is not only geography that determines taste preferences. Generational differences can play a role too, which is why, for example, recent product launches and promotions have focused on meeting the needs of younger consumers.
In India, for example, K-Pots, a range of Asian-flavoured mini meals, were launched to satisfy a growing appetite among younger consumers for convenient snacking options.
Meanwhile, in Germany, Knorr’s award-winning Eat Your Veggies campaign, aimed at encouraging young people to eat more plant-based meals, leveraged the influencer power of seven TikTok creators who transformed the instructions for meat-free Knorr Fix recipe variations into songs.
The purpose that powers it
Making good food accessible to all has always been at the heart of Knorr’s operations. And thanks to its massive global reach and commitment to flavour, the brand is in a great position to promote healthy, sustainable eating in ways that are easy, affordable and, perhaps most importantly, appetising for everyone.
At Knorr we believe that good food can be easy, healthy and joyous. We’re leveraging the power of influencers and popular culture to make the good stuff irresistible. Frank Haresnape, Knorr Global Vice President
“Desirability and cravings shouldn’t be the domain of less good options. We’re leveraging the power of influencers and popular culture to make the good stuff irresistible.
“At Knorr we believe that good food can be easy, healthy and joyous,” says Frank Haresnape, Knorr’s Global Vice President.
To this end, Knorr is inspiring millions of people to cook healthier meals at home, not only through its products but also thanks to on-pack recipes, in-store promotions and on-the-ground nutrition initiatives and programmes at both a local and global level.
Here are a few examples:
1. Promoting plant-based eating
Many of Knorr’s campaigns champion plant-based meals by helping to make the swap from meat to veggies as simple as possible.
In France and Belgium, for example, the brand has recently launched a new range of seasoners specifically created to enhance the taste and texture of oven-baked vegetables.
The brand is also supporting plant-based eating through online recipe platforms which provide a wealth of vegetarian and vegan meal inspiration, and by replacing animal-based ingredients with plant-based alternatives in product recipes wherever possible.
2. Establishing a sustainable supply chain
For over ten years, Knorr has been working with suppliers and farmers in order to encourage and support them in growing key ingredients using the Unilever Sustainable Agriculture Code.
Today 95% of vegetables and herbs are sustainably sourced, and Knorr is increasingly sourcing ingredients that are grown following regenerative agriculture principles.
3. Supporting good nutrition
Knorr’s commitment to supporting healthy nutrition is also reflected in a multitude of projects that target specific dietary issues. These include:
For years, Knorr has been fortifying its products to help fight malnutrition. By the end of 2022, Knorr had delivered 131 billion fortified servingswith at least one of the five key micronutrients (vitamin A, vitamin D, iodine, iron and zinc) in a total of 75 countries.
In Pakistan, for example, more than 50% of children under five and adolescent girIs are anaemic (NationaI Nutrition Survey 2018, Pakistan).
Knorr Iron + Masala Noodles, fortified with 15% of the recommended daily intake of iron as well as additional fibre, is addressing this problem by offering consumers a simple way to get a nutritious meal at a very affordable price point. By doing so, the brand is making nutritious and tasty meals available to people who need it most – especially in rural areas of the country.
Research has shown that a varied diet which includes plant-based foods is the best way to ensure good nutrition. To this end, Knorr has been working with communities across the globe to find easy, accessible ways to get healthy food onto the table.
In Indonesia, Royco’s (Knorr’s brand name in Indonesia) Nutrimenu education programme was launched in 2019 to help families adopt healthier eating habits by diversifying their diets.
By the end of 2022, its ‘What’s on my Plate’ campaign had helped people prepare 100 million more nutritious plates through on-ground and digital educational activities across Indonesia.
Brand new ideas
- Product: salt-free bouillon As part of Unilever’s Future Foods commitment, Knorr is on a mission to reduce the salt content of its products. The challenge with bouillon cubes is that salt not only strengthens their flavour but also gives the cubes their structure.However, in 2021, the Knorr R&D team cracked the problem: creating an alternative salt-free bouillon cube thanks to a unique blend of vegetables, herbs and spices which were used to help build up a rich umami flavour.
Campaign: Eat for Good
On 19 February 2021, Knorr launched World Eat for Good Day as a way of inspiring people to increase the nutritional value of their meals while decreasing the environmental impact of the food they put on their plates.As part of this year’s events, the brand’s Dare to Try campaign challenged 11 influencers to a game of truth or dare during which they learnt the truth about sustainable food and dared to try alternative foods such as protein-rich insects.The campaign secured 358 million reach in earned media outreach , ten years’ worth of content views and more than 7.9 billion views on TikTok. The campaign was also nominated for a Cannes Lions Creativity Award.
- Packaging: Going greenIn 2021, Knorr’s packaging got a makeover that better reflected the brand’s 21st-century values and commitments.The new look is unwaveringly green: a colour that reflects not only the brand’s commitment to healthy eating and sustainable food production but also its passion for natural freshness and flavour.
You might be interested to know…
Knorr’s logo is based on Carl Heinrich Knorr’s signature.
Seasonal seasoning success in the Philippines
Watch: All-Out P-A-S-Ko with Knorr Cubes
When research revealed that only four out of ten households in the Philippines used Knorr cubes during the Christmas season, the local brand team launched an advertising campaign highlighting the taste benefits of using Knorr bouillon in Pasko (Christmas) recipes. The Go All Out campaign saw growth of about 20% across all bouillon cube variations as well as gains in penetration, market share and sales.
Knorr Taste Combo
Watch: Knorr Taste Combos | Chicken Bouillon :30 | It’s not fast food, but it’s so good!
Recent research has shown that 59% of Americans still believe that food that is good for you does not taste as good. Knorr has made it its mission to prove them wrong with its Taste Combos campaign. Powered by celebrity rapper Cardi B who not only endorses Taste Combo meals but also cooks them herself, the campaign aims to position Knorr as the brand that brings fast food taste appeal to home cooking. #TasteCombos
Love at first taste
Watch: Knorr #LoveAtFirstTaste
Adding new flavour to the online dating scene, Knorr used food taste profiles to match single people. The couples were then invited on a blind date with a difference. Not only would their meal be filmed but there was also one strict rule: they had to feed each other. The concept clearly hit a chord in people’s hearts with 6.5 million views on the first day.
UK: Hairy Bikers
Watch: Knorr Cheat On Meat With The Hairy Bikers
The Cheat the Meat campaign leveraged the power of the popular culinary duo, the Hairy Bikers, to demystify vegetarian cooking and reassure doubters that meals can be just as satisfying and delicious if you leave out the meat. Using Knorr vegetable stock pots, the hirsute chefs cooked up meat-free takes on classics such as chilli, curry and shepherd’s pie – the recipes for which were then posted on the Knorr website.