How Sarson’s taught a new generation to pickle

In our 'Anatomy of an Ad' series, we delve deeper into our star line-up of six award-winning success stories, taking a forensic look at the strategies that drove best-in-class results.

Vinegar, for the British public, is a cupboard must-have. Fish and chips wouldn’t be the same without its distinctive whiff; beans on toast benefit from its bracing tang; and any fan of homemade poached eggs knows it’s the only proper way to get the job done.

But while no self-respecting home chef would be without a bottle of Sarson’s, the UK’s favourite vinegar still had a problem: we’re using it less often, and a single bottle lasts forever. Even while Sarson’s accounted for 66% of malt vinegar sales, overall category sales were down by 8% year-on-year. Sarson’s wanted to put an end to this trend and reach a new audience by encouraging customers to pour, not sprinkle – and decided to help them out by teaching them how to get pickling.

Initially, there were concerns that pickling might only appeal to mature consumers, but analysis of Google Search data showed interest across all age groups and a trend on the rise. A new, millennial audience, looking for easy-to-master cooking skills and savvy about the benefits of eating more veg, was the perfect market. And pickling, unlike glazing or marinading, was also a space that Sarson’s could own: competitor analysis showed that YouTube and Google results were dominated by amateur content, with no high-profile chefs or food bloggers creating content about the trend.

"YouTube helped us deliver a truly effective campaign that repositioned the Sarson’s brand… while getting Sarson’s ready for longer-term growth."

– Charlie Davison, Head of SEO, Reprise

Each video highlighted one key product, such as traditional Malt Vinegar, Distilled Malt Vinegar or Pickling Vinegar

Aiming to hit peak pickling season in autumn, Sarson’s worked with digital agency Reprise to create 15 short videos for the Sarson’s website and YouTube channel about how to pickle the most searched-for, seasonal ingredients, tackling everything from pub classics (eggs and onions) to more adventurous offerings (cucumber, cauliflower and connoisseur-fave red cabbage). Videos stayed punchy and fresh to target young foodies, and used tools such as YouTube’s interactive end cards to encourage viewers to visit the Sarson’s website, where they could find and download more recipes.

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The campaign targeted 20-45-year-olds, and the results were dramatic: the brand dominated the sector on Google, ranking on the first page of Search results for most pickling-related keywords. Perhaps most importantly, sales of Sarson’s Distilled Malt Vinegar increased by 20% year-on-year – ensuring that a new generation of customers won’t ever have to suffer eating chips without it.

Videos stayed ultra-short and high-energy, mimicking the style of popular YouTubers rather than more traditional cooking shows
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Rules of Engagement #1: Be smart with targeting