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What claims make the best sellers?

BY Mike Duff

Clearly, more vendors think that “better for the consumer” is better for their products. Yet, understanding just what consumers mean by better is important.

In baby food, organic is critical. According to the Nielsen Co., baby food dollar sales increased by 4.4 percent in the 52 weeks ended Dec. 29, 2007, at food, drug and mass merchants in the United States, excluding Wal-Mart, while organic baby food sales gained 38 percent. Organics may only represent around 4 percent of total category sales, but that’s up from 2 percent in 2004.

TRIMMING THE FAT … AND THEN SOME
Organics are the hot topic, but, truth be told, products proclaiming that they provide less fat have a greater appreciation among consumers.

Source: Nielsen LabelTrends; * Figures in millions; Total U.S. food, drug and mass channels, excluding Wal-Mart for the 52 weeks ended July 14, 2007; ( ) denotes loss
PRODUCT CLAIM SALES* % CHG VS. 2006 % CHG VS. FOUR YRS AGO
Fat $39.8 7% 20%
Natural 19.3 8 29
Calorie 16.4 4 29
Salt/Sodium 15.8 2 5
Preservative Free 10.2 2 13
Cholesterol Free 9.5 3 3
Whole Grain 9.5 9 22
Sugar 9.1 6 33
Calcium Presence 9.0 3 4
Caffeine Free 5.7 (3) (1)
Hormone/Antibiotic Free 3.9 25 108
Organic (UPC-coded) 3.7 26 135

Some segments are enjoying torrid growth. Organic baby cereal and biscuits were up 117 percent in the year ended Dec. 29, 2007, while sales of organic junior baby food were up 124 percent and organic strained baby foods were up a more reasonable, but still impressive, 14 percent after four previous years of double-digit growth. In contrast, sales of baby foods that are characterized as natural actually slipped.

Wellness trends in snacks involve a different set of factors. According to Nielsen Label Trends, only 1.7 percent of snack items made an organic claim in the 52 weeks ended Sept. 8, 2007, but 34.9 percent made a fat claim. And not just any old claim; rather, 26.3 percent of snacks made a claim about a specific fat at a time when trans fats were under assault. In contrast, only 3.4 percent of snacks simply claimed to be lowfat in the general sense.

How products making specific claims fared in the marketplace is a way of gauging consumer reaction. Probiotic products enjoyed a 141 percent sales gain for the 52 weeks ended July 14, 2007. Still, total sales were only $282 million. It turns out that the category enjoying the second-highest one-year gain was “absence of a specific fat,” up 38 percent, to total sales of $7.9 billion.

Yet, the proportion of products making organic claims last year gained faster than any other category designated by Nielsen. Organic claims went up 26 percent with hormone/antibiotic-free claims growing almost as fast at 25 percent, with a big drop-off to the next quickest, whole grain, advancing 9 percent.

Only caffeine-free declined as a claim, down 3 percent last year, although, given recent publicity about studies showing negative health effects, that might change. The categories with the smallest positive growth were the preservative-free or salt/sodium claims, both up 2 percent.

So, wellness is a tricky issue. That which grows fastest doesn’t necessarily grow the most in dollar terms. Still, in some product categories, not staying in touch with trends could drive away many, and perhaps most, customers.

Certainly, vendors are reacting. Adam & Eve, for instance, recently announced that it has expanded its popular Sesame Street juice box line by adding 100 percent organic produce in three varieties. The organic baby juice segment increased by 112.3 percent last year, a nice pace even if a bit slow compared with the 378 percent pace set by the organic baby milk and milk-flavoring segment. Organic baby juice is only a $2.6 million segment at Nielsen stores and organic baby milk and milk flavoring just $17.4 million, but look for new products in those areas, and a passel of receptive consumers.

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Pepsi switches marketing gears for Gatorade, Tropicana

BY Jenna Duncan

CHICAGO Marketing efforts for two of PepsiCo’s major brands, Gatorade and Tropicana, will fall into new hands, the company said yesterday. The Arnell Group of New York will now handle Tropicana and TBWA\Chiat\Day of Playa del Rey, Calif., will take on Gatorade, moving marketing out of the hands of Element 79, the company said. Both of the new groups, as well as Element 79, are controlled by Chicago-based Omnicom Group.

“We’re always looking for breakthrough creative, and … are continuously assessing performance from incumbents, as well as other agencies,” the company said in a statement released yesterday.

PepsiCo reportedly spent more than $180 million on its U.S. media campaign for Gatorade last year and almost $30 million on Tropicana, according to a report by Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Element 79, which was created in 2001 to handle Quaker/PepsiCo after the company left Foote, Cone & Belding, also lost three other PepsiCo brands earlier this year: Lays, Propel Fitness Water and Tostitos. But they continue to handle Quaker cereal, rice and snack brands, covering such brands as Cracker Jack, Life cereal, Quaker brand oatmeal and other products.

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Milwaukee Brewers name Quench their official gum

BY Jenna Duncan

PRAIRIE DU SAC, Wis. Quench gum, marketed for its “thirst-quenching” flavors, will get an extra boost from American League baseball team the Milwaukee Brewers; the team has named Quench its official gum.

Mark Lutz, national sales manager for Quench, said, “We are thrilled to team up with the Brewers. Brewer fans are extremely loyal and their games are a big draw. It’s the perfect opportunity to support the home team and spread the word about Quench gum to a wide variety of people.”

Quench will be allowed exclusive marketing rights during the Brewers’ 2008 season at Miller Park and has planned several events for the summer, including giveaways like Quench Gum Night, July 25.

Mueller Sports Medicine is the maker of Quench gum, purported to help alleviate thirst because it has a tart flavor that stimulates saliva. In addition to its alleged prevalence among baseball players, Quench is also reportedly used by professional athletes in basketball, football, hockey, and even marathon runners.

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