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Nestle expects growth in bottled water brands

BY Tara Smith

VEVEY, Switzerland Nestle SA is expecting U.S. volume growth in its bottled water brands to improve over the next few months compared to last year, with some help from innovation and tropical weather.

Kim Jeffery, chief executive of Nestle Waters North America, noted on Tuesday that the lack of hurricanes last year did not spark disaster-related demand for bottled water, affecting sales. Considering the damage Hurricane Dean left in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, is seems this hurricane season could help drive demand.

Jeffery also announced the company is developing new brand line extensions, noting that they will follow along the popular trend of “functionality,” by adding vitamins or minerals to the beverages. “You can expect us to be extending these brands in some fashion in the coming years,” Jeffery said. “Most likely in 2009.”

Bottled water enhanced with functional ingredients have become the latest driving force in the beverage industry, especially since Coke paid $4.1 billion to acquire Glaceau, maker of VitaminWater, in June. According to Beverage Digest, sales of bottled water increased 11 percent in the first half of 2007.

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Court puts Whole Foods/Wild Oats deal on hold, awaiting more arguments

BY Adam Kraemer

A federal appeals court said Monday it needs more time to consider whether to block Whole Foods Market’s takeover of rival Wild Oats Markets, the Associated Press reported.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit temporarily put on hold the $565 million deal until it can hear more arguments. The three-judge panel said, however, the decision “should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits” of the case.

The Federal Trade Commission on Friday had asked the court to stay a decision by U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman that allowed the transaction to proceed.

According to the court, Whole Foods is blocked “from taking any further steps to acquire the stocks, assets or any other interest” in Wild Oats until the appeals court issues a further ruling. The FTC is attempting to block the deal, claiming antitrust issues.

The FTC has until Wednesday afternoon to explain to the court why the stay is necessary. Whole Foods will have until Thursday to respond. The accelerated schedule suggests the court plans to move quickly.

“If we’re allowed to go through and close this transaction, we’re going to do so,” Whole Foods’ chief executive John Mackey said at the end of July. “We’ll start closing stores and integrating the companies … Once the eggs get scrambled, they’re kind of hard to unscramble.”

The FTC sued in June to block the deal on antitrust grounds, arguing that the two chains compete in a narrow market of “premium, natural and organic supermarkets,” and the combination would stifle competition and lead to higher prices.

The deal wouldn’t hurt consumers, both companies claim, because of competition from conventional supermarkets, such as Safeway and Kroger, which are selling increasingly larger amounts of organic products.

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M&M’s introduces two varieties for end of summer

BY Tara Smith

HACKETTSTOWN, N.J. M&M’S Chocolate Candies announced last week that stores are now carrying two new varieties of the famous brand, M&M’S Dark Chocolate Peanut Candies and a limited edition of M&M’S Razzberry Chocolate Candies.

M&M’S first introduced M&M’S Dark Chocolate Candies and M&M’S Dark Chocolate Peanut Candies in April 2005, but for only a limited time, though more than 30,000 consumers clamored for more when the promotion ended, the company said. In response, M&M’S permanently introduced M&M’S Dark Chocolate Candies last August and is now bringing back M&M’S Dark Chocolate Peanut Candies, available nationwide on a permanent basis.

In addition, consumers can now enjoy M&M’S Razzberry Chocolate Candies, which offer the sweet flavor of raspberries as a complement to the classic M&M’S milk chocolate taste. M&M’S Razzberry Chocolate Candies are “in season” and available in stores for six weeks. They will reach their peak in September and October.

“At M&M’S, we are committed to constant innovation to create fun, great-tasting products that deliver unique experiences to our consumers,” said Anibal Martini, global marketing director, M&M’S Chocolate Candies. “We are delighted to continue to grow the M&M’S brand by introducing the first-fruit flavored M&M’S Razzberry Chocolate Candies while meeting the popular growing demand of dark chocolate by re-introducing M&M’S Dark Chocolate Peanut Candies nationwide.”

M&M’S Dark Chocolate Peanut Candies are now available nationwide in food, mass, convenience and drug stores. They are available in 1.50 oz. singles (55?), 2.87 oz. tear n’ share packaging (99?), 12.6 oz. bags ($2.96) and 20.2 oz. bags ($4.39).

Shoppers can grab their bags of special limited edition M&M’S Razzberry Chocolate Candies in prominent, impactful point-of-sale displays nationwide in food, mass, convenience and drug stores. M&M’S Razzberry Chocolate Candies can be found in a bright pink package on which Red announces, “This is Berry Cool.”

M&M’S Razzberry Chocolate Candies will be available for only six weeks in food, mass, convenience and drug stores. They are offered in single 1.50 oz. (55?), 11.8 oz. ($2.96) and 18.6 oz. ($4.39) packaging.

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