Dietz & Watson NextGen goes nuts

By April Hall

Dietz & Watson is a fourth-generation family business probably known best for its products in the deli case. But the company recently expanded to charcuterie, snacks and sandwich condiments.

How do they let people know all they have to offer? A pop-up shop, of course. It’s all the rage with the kids these days!

Lauren Eni is no kid at 33, but she has brought about change at Philadelphia-based Dietz & Watson. The company, founded by her great-grandfather, didn’t have an in-house marketing department, didn’t do “a ton” of national advertising and didn’t have much of a presence on social media when she entered the business a decade ago.

But the company is shifting, particularly with Eni as vice president of brand strategy, overseeing marketing. One of the most drastic moves may have been Dietz & Watson’s first Super Bowl commercial earlier this year.

It was a cheeky spot advertising the brand’s new snack of bite-sized sausages. Comic actor Craig Robinson went on for about 40 seconds name-checking “Dietz Nuts” 11 times, evoking an off-color anatomical reference that’s endured in pop culture since the ’90s. It wasn’t highbrow humor, but it was regarded as one of the hit commercials run during the big game by viewers and marketing experts alike.

“In the last year or so, [there was a shift] in the way we’re talking to the consumer,” Eni says. “There’s a lot more humor, more pop culture references and celebrities.”

The spotlight is moving from a traditional mom going to the grocery store to get lunchmeat to pack in sandwiches, she says, to younger consumers who have more choices of what to buy and where to buy it.

Enter the pop-up Delishop, part of Dietz & Watson’s new marketing approach and a way to offer brand swag to fans. The store is on South Street in Philadelphia, known for its blocks of restaurants and quirky shops. There are, of course, cold cases with meats and cheeses, shelves of bottles (including Gritty Sauce, named after the Philadelphia Flyers’ mascot whose introduction went viral) and the aforementioned Dietz Nuts. But that’s not all. Shoppers can also get a bathing suit that boasts “body by bacon,” a hot dog pool float, a branded baseball cap and other non-food items.

The shop will be open through July and an ecommerce site will remain online at least through the end of the year.

Eni says all the new marketing efforts were thoroughly explained to the family business’s leaders and were backed up by market research. She says no one has ever turned down an innovative idea that she’s brought to the table.

“Being a family business means it’s important to get our values across and be very approachable,” Eni says. “The other part of being a family business and having some of these outrageous marketing tactics is the ability to take the risk,” so even if family members (she is one of five of the fourth generation working for the business and there are three of her father's generation) thought her proposals were “crazy” they supported the moves.

Eni says she was also encouraged by her grandmother, Ruth “Momma Dietz” Eni, who was the face of the company for decades. She died in February at age 94.

“She was very into us trying new things,” Eni says. “We celebrated her birthday a few weeks before she died and [Ruth] said, ‘We need to do new things and get the new generation in.’ ”

The matriarch knew about Dietz Nuts — and she approved.