Cargill Unfurls Consumer Campaign for Stevia Sweetener

Company Enters Sugar-Substitute Category With Four Spots from WPP; Host of Other Shops on Team

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The market for sugar substitutes at the dinner table may seem saturated to some, but Cargill sees room for one more: its stevia-derived, zero-calorie natural sweetener, Truvia.

Truvia distinguishes itself from its blue-, yellow- and pink-packet siblings with a green-and-white motif.
Truvia distinguishes itself from its blue-, yellow- and pink-packet siblings with a green-and-white motif.
'Honestly sweet'
The company today kicked off a consumer-marketing campaign for the table-top sweetener, aiming to build brand awareness primarily among health-conscious women with sweet cravings. Truvia's tagline for this campaign: "Honestly sweet."

It's a first for the company with a history of developing ingredients, not stand-alone products. "This is Cargill's first consumer U.S. campaign for any product," said Zanna McFerson, director at Cargill Health & Nutrition. "For us to have a complete comprehensive integrated-marketing campaign is exciting and new."

WPP's Ogilvy & Mather, Chicago, developed all creative content for the campaign, including four national TV spots, along with print and online ads. In hiring Ogilvy, Cargill is getting an agency with lots of sweetener experience: The shop for years handled Nutrasweet. But Cargill is working on an integrated push with a host of other agencies as well: Universal McCann (media buying), Bolin Marketing (consumer promotion, retail marketing), Periscope (web design), RF Binder Partners (public relations) and Pentagram (packaging). "We're all working together -- this is not a silo approach," Ms. McFerson said.

Unlike some of its chemical and powdery competitors, Truvia is a natural product derived from the stevia leaf, and has a "crystalline" texture. Truvia distinguishes itself from its blue-, yellow- and pink-packet siblings with a green-and-white motif. And it is poised to star in three Odwalla beverages by Coca-Cola Co. to be released as soon as this week, according to The Wall Street Journal. PepsiCo has its own version of the natural sweetener in development, called PureVia.

Dietary supplement for now
Stevia is approved as a dietary supplement by the Food and Drug Administration. Approval as a food additive is expected soon.

Tara Gidus, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and registered nutritionist and dietitian, said Truvia has a real shot at "being the next great thing" because of its natural derivation. "A lot of people don't like some of the artificial sweeteners," she said. "This gives people a more natural zero-calorie sweetener that they can use."

Sugar still top market
There's certainly room at the top for a new zero-calorie sweetener. The sugar-substitute category was a $370 million market for the 52 weeks ended Nov. 30, according to Information Resources Inc., in food, drug and mass merchandisers excluding Walmart. Leading the pack is Splenda, with 60% market share. Sweet'N Low and Equal follow, with about 13% and 11% market shares, respectively.

Even so, the market for sugar still dwarfs that for sugar substitutes -- at more than $1 billion in sales, according to IRI.

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