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Philip Morris extinguishes Marlboro Ultra Smooth cigarettes

BY Jenna Duncan

RICHMOND, Va. Philip Morris USA, an Altria Group Inc. company and the No. 1 tobacco company in the United States, has closed the doors on its Marlboro Ultra Smooth cigarettes operation. Phillip Morris said that the decision came because it’s facing hurdles in growing its tobacco business, according to published reports.

The Ultra Smooth cigarettes were being tested in Atlanta, Tampa, Fla., and Salt Lake City, but Philip Morris stopped making them April 1, the company said. It also pulled the plug on its Marlboro Ultra Lights, sold in the Phoenix area and North Dakota, and its Basic Ultra Lights cigarettes, sold in Washington state.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the sales volume for Philip Morris dropped 4.6 percent last year, a steeper decline than the overall U.S. cigarette market, which dropped about 4 percent. Furthermore, Philip Morris’ underlying sales volume dropped 3.6 percent.

The company said that it expects overall cigarette sales to drop by an annual rate of about 2.5 percent to 3 percent in the next several years.

Philip Morris said that it is looking into developing tobacco products that are less threatening to consumers’ health. Ironically, the company had previously released statements that Marlboro Ultra Smooth cigarettes had built-in activated carbon filters, designed to release nicotine, but prohibit exposure to some carcinogens found in regular cigarettes.

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Heinz Ketchup receives top marks in brand equity, says Harris study

BY Jenna Duncan

ROCHESTER, N.Y. Harris Interactive today released the 2008 results of EquiTrend—a 28-year study of brand equity covering more than 1,000 brands and spanning 39 categories The study named Heinz Ketchup as No. 1 in brand equity.

The study said that Heinz Ketchup beat out other contenders like M&Ms, Hershey, Cheerios and Duracell in six base categories: brand expectations, distinctiveness, familiarity, purchase consideration, quality and trust.

The EquiTrend report also examined each category’s word of mouth marketing and identified certain demographic sub-groups that were most likely to participate in word of-mouth-marketing. For example, the restaurant category reportedly had high levels of word-of-mouth marketing.

“While there are many ways to strengthen the bonds between brands and their stakeholders, it is becoming increasingly important to understand the social networks to which stakeholders belong and how they operate, in order to proactively influence the spread of positive brand experiences and minimize the damage of negative experiences,” senior vice president of brands and communications consulting at Harris Interactive, Carol Gstalder, said. “This word-of-mouth marketing, combined with the historical brand equity tracking data in EquiTrend, provides a new way of looking at brands and their management in the context of a highly dynamic marketplace.”

Harris Interactive provides more EquiTrend information on brands and strategizing at its Web site, www.harrisinteractive.com/brand.

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Kellogg touts benefits of high-fiber diets

BY Jenna Duncan

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. According to Kellogg Co., the remedy for feeling “lighter” and more comfortable for many people is a high-fiber diet. Kellogg cited survey data coming from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey that claims that as few as one-in-10 Americans get the right amount of fiber daily—25 to 30 grams.

To encourage more people to try diets high in fiber, Kellogg is giving its All-Bran Fiber Drink Mix and All-Bran Fiber Bars a boost.

“While new All-Bran Fiber Bars and Drink Mixes certainly taste great, we’re excited because they offer a substantial amount of fiber per serving fiber that many consumers aren’t getting enough of,” Dr. Jennifer Garrett, Kellogg’s director of nutrition marketing, said.

All-Bran Fiber Bars and Fiber Drink mixes 10 grams of fiber per serving. The fiber bars come in two flavors; apple cinnamon streusel and strawberry drizzle; drink mixes are available in iced tea and pink lemonade flavors and contain 20 calories per serving mixed with 16.9-ounce to 20-ounces of water. The fiber bars are made from wheat bran and whole grain rolled oats and contain 120-130 calories. All-Bran fiber products contain about three times the amount of fiber as leading fiber supplements [10 grams], according to Kellogg.

All-Bran high fiber bars and drink mixes are available in the diet and nutrition aisle at grocery stores across the United States.

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