Subway Shifts the Focus to Its Veggie Selection

Subway’s shifting the focus of its ads, trying to play up its veggie selection and push sales of its meatless offerings.

This comes on top of an ongoing promotion that’s emphasizing the freshness of the company’s bread, which makes sense after the dust-up earlier in the year about the bread containing a chemical that’s also found in yoga mats and shoe rubber. Clearly, Subway’s on a roll (or at least a 12-inch loaf.)

Subway

So what’s up with the shift to bread and veggies instead of the company’s meat offerings? Well, according to Subway CMO Tony Pace, “In a very crowded and competitive marketplace, you need to do everything you can to stand out.” In this case, the company looks like it’s trying to stand out by showing off everything that its competitors aren’t.

That makes sense, I suppose. When you look at just about any restaurant’s ads, chances are there’s some sort of meat front-and-center. Sub shops tend to focus on meaty offerings like meatball subs, Philly cheesesteaks, and club sandwiches piled high with ham and turkey. Burger joints show off burgers and chicken, sit-down places show you their latest seasonal meaty entrees, and even burrito shops show off their steak and chicken offerings with featured salsas. Meat is king when it comes to the food industry.

Subway’s not necessarily trying to take that crown away, either. Even though they’re pushing fresh bread and nice fresh veggies, that’s not stopping the company from continuing its summer promotion featuring pulled-pork barbecue and barbecued steak piled high on its sandwiches. In fact, if you take a look at the current featured products on Subway’s website, there are only two items that don’t have meat… and both of those are flatbreads. One of them doesn’t even have any vegetables on it.

Part of what Subway’s really doing is probably trying to restore its reputation as a healthy dining option after people got all worked up over the conditioners in its bread. One campaign shows that Subway’s using fresh-baked bread, the next shows off how happy families are with the veggies the sub shop offers, and if you look at the website there’s a nice little quote from CNN about how Subway has showed the “most dramatic improvements” in reducing sodium in its offerings.

Is this a bad thing? Not really, no. Even if the push to focus on veggies and fresh bread seems a little reactionary, it’s still good business. Subway enjoyed years of popularity as the “healthy” choice for food on the run, thanks in large part to the ads that told about Jared Fogel’s weight loss. When the Subway Diet fell out of favor with the pop-culture consciousness, the sub chain started fading into the same “it’s always there” obscurity that a lot of well-established fast-food places share.

Like Pace said, Subway needs to do everything that it can to stand out. Does that mean grasping at the iron ring of “healthy” eating again? Sure, why not? Other competitors may try it from time to time, but Subway’s better positioned to get people believing it. At least until Subway’s veggies become old hat or someone finds tire rubber in its lettuce.

Howard Davidson Arlington MA

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