Officials at Ross didn't return calls regarding the launch slated to be completed by early next year. But executives who have seen trade materials said the company will spend about $7 million in the first quarter of '98 alone on the nutrition bar.
A full program of TV and print is planned as well as a major sampling push in 300 to 400 health clubs in 22 markets slated for February. Total spending is pegged at $20 million for the first year of distribution.
BRAND BUDGET AT $44 MIL
That spending will be incremental to the $24 million in measured media the company shelled out to support Ensure's liquid nutritional supplement last year, upping the ante for Ensure brand advertising to $44 million. Gotham, New York, is the agency for the supplement and the new nutrition bar.
According to Information Resources Inc., weight control/protein supplements are an $847.1 million category in food, drug and mass merchandisers, up 20% over the previous 52 weeks. Ensure is by far the leader among nutrition supplements, with a total of $272.5 million in sales for Ensure, Ensure Plus and Ensure Light. However, Ensure and Ensure Plus saw sales declines of 11.9% and 18.3%, respectively, during that period.
RIVALS ARE BOOST, SUSTACAL
Excluding weight-loss products such as Thompson Medical Co.'s Ultra Slim-Fast and Nestle USA's Sweet Success, Ensure's nearest competitors are Boost, with $45.2 million in sales, and Sustacal, with $50.1 million. Both are from Mead-Johnson Nutritionals.
The nutrition bar appears to be an attempt to extend the Ensure brand name beyond mainstay baby boomers.
The bar category currently has a diverse set of competitors, ranging from high-performance products such as PowerFoods' PowerBar, and V02Max, a product marketed by a sports nutrition unit at Mars Inc.
IRI measures nutrition bars within the $847.9 million granola bar category. PowerBar's supermarket sales were $27.7 million, according to IRI.