NEW COOKING OIL PROMISES WEIGHT-LOSS BENEFITS

Enova Is Latest Marketing Attempt to Join Battle Against Obesity

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Commodity ingredient maker Archer Daniels Midland Co. will make its first major foray into consumer advertising with the launch early next year of a new weight-control cooking oil dubbed Enova.

The new brand, part of a joint venture between ADM and Japan's Kao Corp., will initially roll into Atlanta and Chicago markets in mid-January backed by roughly $4 million in total marketing. But ADM has slated a budget of nearly $18 million for the national launch of the brand, expected as early as 2004.

$300 million in sales?
Tony DeLio, corporate vice president of marketing for ADM, said Enova has the potential to grow to as much as $300 million in sales as a bottled oil or as an ingredient in cookies, salad dressings and the like. Because the all-natural soybean and canola oil is metabolized differently than conventional oils, Mr. Delio said, it can help people maintain or lose weight. With Centers for Disease Control figures showing more than 60% of Americans are overweight and 20% are clinically obese, that could be significant.

But some industry observers are skeptical about ADM's grandiose expectations.

"It seems to me stores are littered with products like [McNeil's Consumer Nutritionals'] Benecol and [Procter & Gamble Co.'s] olestra that haven't set the world on fire," Banc of America Securities analyst Bill Leach said. Furthermore, he said, "ADM is not a company known for its prowess as a marketer," and Enova will most likely make little difference to the $30 billion company.

'Healthier alternative'
But Scott Van Winkle, a principal at investment bank Adams Harkness & Hill, pointed to the problems inherent to existing entries, namely Benecol's positioning as a functional food that consumers need to add to their diet and olestra's reputation as something that caused gastrointestinal distress. "The key [with Enova] is not to market it as a functional food ingredient, but rather as a healthier alternative to a product consumers are already using."

And that's what ADM is doing. Women-targeted TV and print ads from Interpublic Group of Cos.' Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide, Chicago, break in the initial markets in February. The creative premise is that consumers can lose weight and body fat without changing anything about the way they live or cook, beyond switching to Enova. The tagline asserts: "Just change your oil." In-store efforts, sampling and newspaper inserts will also support Enova.

No. 1 oil in Japan
According to Mr. DeLio, a former Mars executive, Enova has become the No. 1 oil in Japan since it was launched three years ago. At a suggested retail price of $4.79, Enova is more than twice as expensive as traditional vegetable oils, (a $770 million category led by J.M. Smucker Co.'s Crisco), but roughly 10% less than olive oils, Mr. DeLio said.

ADM also plans to launch its Soy 7 soy pasta brand nationally this March backed by more grassroots public relations and event marketing tactics. ADM markets the ingredient NutraSoy, which is branded on roughly 23 grocery products.

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