To find out, the Better Buying Lab teamed up with food companies in the U.K. and U.S., including fast-casual chain Panera Bread. The company had a “Vegetarian Black Bean Soup” on the menu that was originally labeled as low-fat. Customers who tried the soup seemed to like it, but the name didn’t seem to encourage a lot of new customers to try it, says Sara Burnett, Panera’s vice president for wellness and food policy.
“‘Vegetarian’ — the word in and of itself — to a lot of folks doesn’t sound highly craveable,” Burnett says.
So Panera tried out a couple of options to see if it could make that soup sound more scrumptious. When it rebranded the dish as “Cuban black bean soup” in a test at 18 stores in Los Angeles and California’s Central Valley, sales went up by 13 percent.
“‘Cuban’, in a lot of folks’ minds, when they react to that they think of a flavor profile,” says Burnett. “They think of a little bit of heat, a little bit of spice, and that makes people hungry.”