BERTOLLI SETS $3 MIL EFFORT FOR NEW OIL

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Bertolli USA hopes to give the sagging olive oil category a lift with a new entry it's touting as "the largest advertising launch in the olive oil category."

The marketer breaks a $3 million effort in August to support Gentile al Palato extra virgin, which it describes as having a "softer, gentler note" than its regular extra virgin. The marketer claims spending will be incremental to its current budget, which Bertolli estimated at $6 million to $7 million.

Print ads will run in magazines including Food & Wine, Wine Spectator, The New York Times Magazine and Saveur, among others, and are themed "Tradition has a new taste."

`GENTLE TO THE PALATE'

Norma Friend, exec VP at agency Gianettino & Meredith, Short Hills, N.J., said the ads showcase Italian country scenes behind the label.

The brand, translated from Italian as "Gentle to the palate," has been available in Italy for a year.

Cable TV and radio advertising also will support the launch.

"It's a product formulated for a more discriminating palate," said Ms. Friend.

"It's blended with a mild yet robust flavor for a European palate," she added.

Bertolli said dollar sales of extra virgin olive oil grew at a 15% clip last year. That would be a bright spot in an otherwise lethargic category.

CATEGORY SALES FALL

According to Information Resources Inc., the $338.8 million category saw sales fall 3.6% last year. Leader Bertolli had a 33.4% share, but its sales slid 4%. No. 2 Salov North America's Filippo Berio saw sales down 1.2%, for a share of 19%. Private-label products, ranked No. 3 nationally, also had declining sales.

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