Bestfoods has marketed soy beverages in Latin America since 1992 under the Ades brand, but the traditional food marketer only now is bringing those products to the U.S. to take advantage of the explosive growth of the category here. Until now, the U.S. market has been dominated by smaller natural and organic food players.
Sales for the category in grocery stores grew 82.2% to $82.6 million in 1999, according to Bestfoods research. And those numbers have continued to rise, with sales in April up 116% vs. the same period last year, said Fabio Marciano, associate brand manager for NutraBlend. Category leaders include White Wave's Silk, Hain Food Group's Westsoy and Eden Foods' Edensoy.
GROWTH IN SOY
Bestfoods, which recently announced an agreement to be bought out by Unilever, is hopeful its longstanding relationship with retailers will help it drive sales of soy beverages in mainstream channels even further.
The meteoric growth of the category has been driven in part by the Food & Drug Administration's approval last October of a health claim that allows marketers to make a link between consumption of soy protein and reduced risk of coronary disease on labeling.
The FDA approval, combined with public relations efforts from marketers of soy products, sparked hundreds of articles in the consumer press about the benefits of soy, which is also said to help in the prevention of prostate cancer and to ease menopause.
Such awareness has prompted White Wave to launch its first national ad campaign for Silk (AA, May 8), and now Bestfoods is following suit with a large-scale effort bowing this fall that includes print, Internet, event marketing and retail promotions.
MORE OPEN TO MESSAGE
"As consumers become more open to the message of soy health benefits and are reading more about it, they're looking for these products; and now is the time to advertise," said Peter Caldini, product manager for NutraBlend.
Print ads, from DVC's Active Care Group, Morristown, N.J., will launch in October issues of health magazines including Fitness, Prevention and Shape. The ads emphasize both the health and taste attributes of NutraBlend -- a line of original and vanilla soy milk as well as apple and orange soy beverages -- with the tagline, "Discover how good health tastes."
The primary target for the advertising is current soy beverage users, a wide spectrum of people ranging from those who have long used the products for lactose intolerance to a new wave of young, upscale users who have been brought into the category through the media hype.
A Web site (nutrablend.com) will offer general nutritional information about soy benefits in general and the products in particular, as well as recipes and directions on how to use the product. Bestfoods will sample the beverages at health-related events, including marathons, as well as at point of purchase, where in-store demos will be used to overcome the negative perceptions people still have about soy beverages, Mr. Marciano said.