CELESTIAL SEASONINGS SETS $25 MIL CAMPAIGN AS HERBAL MARKET EXPLODES: PUSH IS BIGGEST YET IN CATEGORY THAT SAW 33.6% AD GROWTH IN '97

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Celestial Seasonings is launching a $25 million effort behind its new line of herbal supplements, the largest campaign to date in a field that's seeing dramatic growth.

Competition in the category is expected to further intensify this year as SmithKline Beecham rolls out its four-product Abtei line -- currently testing in Minneapolis and elsewhere -- and American Home Products Corp. launches its anticipated Centrum herbals this summer.

Herbal supplements are moving beyond natural- and health-food stores into drug, grocery and mass merchants, and with them are coming larger sales and greater ad budgets -- as well as some concern from the Federal Trade Commission.

SPENDING HIT $178.5 MIL

Overall ad spending on vitamins/supplements soared 33.6% in 1997, to $178.5 million, after seeing 26.8% growth in 1996, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Increasingly, TV is becoming a part of the media mix, with spending up 29.5% to $50.5 million last year.

"It's heated up quite a bit," said Roxann Goertz, senior VP-management supervisor at Campbell Mithun Esty, Minneapolis, the Celestial Seasonings agency. "The category in mass retail is exploding,

but we expect a lot more noise.’’

Celestial Seasonings’ ‘‘What you do for you’’ campaign, breaking this week, represents an enormous spending increase for the company. Last year, the marketer’s teas got $8.8 million in measured media support.

For the supplements, print ads will be accompanied by advertorials; TV also is planned.

INTO MASS MERCHANTS

The new line will include 17 products and is moving from primarily natural- and health-food stores to mass merchants and drugst ores. Nine of the products will be called Ultimate Blend, reflecting multiple ingredients such as Echinacea Cold Season with zinc and vitamin C.

Celestial Seasonings experimented last summer with a limited herbal line (AA, June 23). It also licensed its name to Warner-Lambert Co. for echinacea lozenges.

‘‘We learned a lot about the differences between the mass and health markets,’’ said Ms. Goertz about the test.

SMALLER BRANDS MOVE IN

Smaller brands, such as Twinlabs and Pharmaton Natural Health’s Ginsana, also have increased their TV presence.

Twinlabs doubled its media spending this year to $10 million to $12 million via Hanft Byrne Raboy & Partners, New York. TV just broke for its Piruvate Fuel and new TV support is planned this spring for Creatine Fuel.

Up to $22 million in Pharmaton brand efforts have come via Sawtooth Group, Woodbridge, N.J., for its Ginsana and Vitasana, and Venastat, advertised as ‘‘for leg health.’’

Opened up by the 1994 Dietary Supplement & Health Education Act, which allowed ‘‘structure-function’’ claims and limited the Food & Drug Adminstration’s regulatory role, the category may be ripe for further regulation as some products exceed claims boundaries.

While many products aim to deal with colds and general health, some are walking a finer line.

‘‘It’s an important enforcement area for us,’’ said Michelle Rusk, staff attorney at the FTC’s Division of Advertising Practices. ‘‘We’ve been doing a lot of industry outreach, since there’s a lot of confusion about what our standards are and how to

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