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Finding the Recipe for Success

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Change isn't always a bad thing.

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There have been countless times throughout history when brand names have outlived the recipes that made their products famous in the first place; whether it was due to strong marketing campaigns or healthier options, somehow the companies managed to make their products endure.

Changes in companies' signature recipes happen more often than people might think. Recent health kicks have sent several famous companies back to the measuring cups to make their products more consumer-friendly. Companies from Yum! Brands' (YUM) KFC to McDonald's (MCD) have tried to reduce the trans-fat in their products that comes from the partially hydrogenated oils used in cooking and baking. But not all companies succumbed to the change easily; in 2003, a lawsuit was brought against Kraft Foods (KFT) for the trans-fat used in its Oreo cookie recipe. The chocolate and cream sandwich cookies have been around for almost a century, but the original recipe hasn't endured. Kraft eventually crumbled under the pressure and eventually changed the recipe of its famous cookies.

But trans-fats haven't been the only health issues to crop up in foods loved by the masses. High salt and sugar contents have also pushed companies to make the switch. General Mills (GIS) announced in early December that it would be cutting the sugar in its most highly marketed children's cereals, including Lucky Charms, Trix, and Cocoa Puffs. The change came after a study by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity showed that the least-healthy breakfast cereals were the most aggressively marketed to children. General Mills, along with Kellogg (K) and Post Foods, have reduced the sugar content of their cereals over the last two years, as well as added more whole grains and other nutrients.

Sometimes great marketing can pull a brand through this often awkward transition. In 1997, Burger King launched a $70 million advertising campaign to push the new recipe for its French fries, claiming they were better tasting than McDonald's French fries. The new fries were treated with potato starch so that a coating formed as they emerged from the fryer, giving the potatoes a hotter, crispier taste. The company admitted that its original fries were inferior in taste to its competitor, which, at the time, held more than 40% of the market share, compared to Burger King's 20%.

See the slideshow below to find out about the success and failure of other brands that have tried to change their recipes.

No positions in stocks mentioned.

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