SCOTS oatcakes have been rebranded as crackers – to help puzzled American shoppers.
Nairn’s, Scotland’s biggest oatcake manufacturers, have been forced into the move as Americans think a cake is something sweet.
The Edinburgh-based firm has also rebranded its oat biscuit lines as “cookies” to appeal to buyers on the other side of the Atlantic.
Mark Laing, the company’s chief executive, said that a large number of ex-pats in Canada, Australia and New Zealand meant sales of Nairn’s products were consistently good, as customers were more likely to understand what an oatcake is.
But in America people often struggled with the concept.
He said: “It’s quite interesting to sell oatcakes to the Americans, who are quite confused by the concept of oats and cakes.
“We have been through various guises, trying to help the US consumer understand the use implication for these products.
“We have now got to the point where we will call our oatcakes there Scottish oat crackers. We have called them all sorts of things but we think this will be the key to unlock it. It is blindingly obvious when you get there.”
Susanna Freedman, an expert in branding and managing director with design company Tsuko, said Nairns was right to “conform”.
She said: “It sound like the right decision to me. You have to evolve the brand to suit the culture rather than enforce a brand that is working elsewhere. It wont dilute the brand identity here. They are just adjusting in a way that’s appropriate.”
She said the change was more likely to be needed for the American market than in Canada or New Zealand where there is more nostalgia for the UK.
She said America held more belief in a “melting pot” effect, where family roots are prized but American heritage is more important.
She said: “ In Australia and Canada there is a much closer affinity with Scottish culture. Although there are lots of people in the US who have Scottish roots, there is an Americanised Scottishness.
“Although people are proud of their roots American culture has evolved and is very much entrenched.”
But Martin Hunt, managing director of PR and branding agency Tartan Silk, said the firm was taking the wrong approach.
He said: “I’m sure it will open up the US market to them.
“However I am a traditionalist and I feel that I would prefer, culturally, to maintain the status quo. Would we want to rename haggis or cranachan or other Scottish food to appeal to a different palate?
“Surely one should educate consumers about the traditions and the culture of what an oatcake is. Nairn’s Oatcakes is a fabulous brand and a great product.”
Marketing has already begun and Nairn’s is hoping to cash in on the health craze for oats currently sweeping the US.
Oats are considered a healthier alternative to wheat. As wheat contains gluten it cannot be eaten by sufferers of Coeliac disease, but they are able to eat oats.
Last year Nairn’s invested £750,000 to build a factory that produces gluten-free products. It’s estimated that the gluten-free market is worth £100 million in the UK alone.