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Mars announces winner of million-dollar Halloween contest prize

BY Jenna Duncan

PHOENIX Mars Snackfood on Thursday announced the grand-prize winner of its Halloween Million Contest as Michelle Willis of Ahwatukee, Ariz.

Willis received an oversized check written out in the amount of $1 million delivered to her by M&Ms characters.

Willis said that she would use part of her winnings for a surgery for her pet Chihuahua, Belle, to have a tumor removed.

“Belle is my best friend, and we were so worried about how we were going to cover the cost of the surgery,” Willis said.

“When we got home from meeting with the vet, there was a FedEx letter saying that I had won the contest,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it was true, so I called my daughters into the room so they could read it, too. The operation was weighing so heavily on my mind that this news was perfect timing.”

Mars’ Halloween Million sweepstakes ran earlier this year online. Entrants 13 years of age and older were invited to sign in at HalloweenMillion.com where they could enter UPC codes from Mars candy packages such as Snickers, M&Ms, Milky Way bars, Skittles and others.

Mars said that the $1 million grand prize money will be paid to Willis as a 20-year annuity.

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More shoppers buying economy-sized items to save money in hard times

BY Michael Johnsen

CHICAGO Given the current state of the economy, nearly half of U.S. consumers are looking to help stretch their dollars by buying larger economy-sized offerings, according to a consumer survey released by the Nielsen Company on Tuesday.

Conversely, only 17 percent of consumers prefer new, smaller pack products at lower pricepoints.

“Without question, this is an extremely tough time for today’s consumer,” said Todd Hale, senior vice president, consumer and shopper insights for the Nielsen Company. “CPG manufacturers and retailers have few options to manage rising commodity costs beyond absorbing increased costs, passing on increases to consumers by raising prices or cover increased costs by downsizing offerings,” he said. “Downsizing, in particular, is not a new option—we’ve seen downsizing over the last few years in a number of categories, including ice cream, cereal, candy bars, salty snacks and paper products.”

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Widespread ad campaign released for first all-natural, zero-calorie sweetener

BY Melissa Valliant

MINNETONKA, Minn. Cargill, an international provider of food, agricultural and risk management products and services, is launching an aggressive ad campaign for Truvia, the first natural, no-calorie sweetener made from the stevia leaf. Calorie-conscious consumers have been using no- and low-calorie sweeteners like Splenda and Sweet’n Low for a while now, but both of these products are artificially engineered.

Truvia will be debuting on national network and cable TV, national consumer print publications and women- and wellness-focused Web sites. Respected commercial director Mikon van Gastel, who has directed ads for Nike, IBM, Reebok, Olympus, Absolut and Target, among others, will be directing four 30-second TV spots for the new product. The ads will include close-up shots of the stevia leaf, conveying to consumers the sweetener’s purity.  

“Through research, we found that consumers are trying to live more balanced lives but have a complicated relationship with sweeteners,” said Zanna McFerson, director at Cargill Health and Nutrition. “The marketing campaign to launch Truvia tabletop sweetener is designed to inform consumers that for the first time, there is a natural great-tasting zero calorie sweetener that comes from a leaf, not a lab.”

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