FOODS RANGE FROM FUN TO FUNCTIONAL -- EAT UP: SUPERMARKET CONFERENCE SHOWCASES WIDE RANGE OF OFFERINGS

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The Food Marketing Institute's annual supermarket-industry convention last week was an exercise in extremes.

Nestled next to super-indulgent ice creams and baked goods were health-oriented items with a big focus on vitamin and mineral fortification. Fun foods co-existed with cholesterol-lowering functional foods. And lines being test marketed vied for attention with those set for full-scale national introductions.

In fact, a remarkable number of products in only limited distribution at this point hit the show floor in Chicago May 2-4.

BIG G'S KIDS' YOGURT

General Mills' Go-Gurt, its squeezable yogurt aimed at kids now in 10 western markets, is slated for five northeastern markets this summer, with a launch promised in the Midwest for fall. TV advertising from Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, will support.

Also coming from Big G later this summer is a Colombo yogurt with a collapsible spoon under its lid. The marketer wouldn't comment on ad plans for the line extension, handled by DDB Worldwide, Chicago.

Coca-Cola Co.'s Minute Maid unit highlighted a revolutionary new "figure 8"-style aseptic package, being tested in Dallas and Minneapolis. The company's display said it will spend the equivalent of $12 million on national advertising and promotion on the test for Hi-C Blast, and another $11 million in advertising and promotion for Minute Maid Cooler.

TV commercials themed "The shape of things to come" are being handled by Leo Burnett USA, Chicago.

Frito-Lay chose southern Texas and Oklahoma to test its new Frito Chili & Scoops! The package is divided into two parts, one with chili that can be heated in the microwave in 60 seconds, and the other with chips.

There was no discussion of advertising, but signs promoted it as "a favorite American combination." BBDO Worldwide, New York, is Frito-Lay's shop.

CAMPBELL'S TEST PRODUCTS

Campbell Soup Co. displayed two products believed to be slated for test later this year, although the company declined to offer details. They include a canned MegaNoodle soup-and-lunch combination of its microwaveable Soup to Go with a package of Pepperidge Farm crackers and cookies.

Procter & Gamble Co. also stuffed its booth with test products -- Swiffer, Physique and its Dryel home dry-cleaning kit -- in an attempt to showcase its research & development prowess.

Among its more recent entrants was Sunny Delight Eclipse, which hit shelves nationally last month. The extension of fruit drink beverages is aimed at teens and kids slightly older than those targeted by the base brand. D'Arcy Masius Benton and Bowles, New York, handles the ad campaign starting in late spring.

Another product going national is its Jif Sensations, flavored peanut butters testing since last year with advertising from Grey Advertising, New York. P&G wouldn't confirm an August rollout timetable.

HEARTY CREATIONS

Earthgrains Co. introduced into test its Grant's Farm brand Hearty Creations hamburger and hot dog buns. Going into Oklahoma and Kansas this month, the line is offered in chili cheese & onions, bacon & cheddar and cheddar & jalapeno.

This month, Earthgrains also started testing in California its Morning Goodness breakfast bread, described as "loaded with fruits and nuts." And it recently introduced into all its markets a calcium-enriched IronKids bread.

Calcium fortification is playing a bigger role in juices, from North-land Cranberries' Seneca line -- beginning in the East and concluding rollout by yearend. The company plans promotion only via Cramer-Krasselt, Milwaukee.

Meanwhile, rival Apple & Eve is taking it a step further with a Sesame Street-branded calcium-fortified juice line.

Even plain old raisins are getting "fortified" -- with cinnamon. Dole Food Co. introduced CinnaRaisins, a dusted raisin.

TAKE CONTROL VS. BENECOL

The big battle on the health front will be between Unilever's Lipton, which just got U.S. Food & Drug Administration approval to market its cholesterol-lowering Take Control spread, and Johnson & Johnson's McNeil Consumer Products' similar product, Benecol.

The two will face off in marketing, with Lipton's TV, direct mail, couponing and Web site effort, from McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, going against a McNeil campaign from Saatchi & Saatchi, New York.

Benecol is expected to get its FDA approval later this month.

HEALTH, NATURAL

Along with health, natural was a buzzword at FMI, which put on its first Natural Foods Showcase. A well-attended display of a natural foods retail environment was crafted by distributor Tree of Life, which said supermarket sales of supplements and natural remedies would exceed $3 billion by 2000.

Herbal and New Age beverages also were numerous. Lipton showed its Sun Spree tea bags, a line of apple, peach and lemon teas expected to get a national campaign from J. Walter Thompson USA, New York, later this year. Triarc Beverages will bring out a Snapple line of functional beverages fortified with herbs and antioxidants, with intoxicating names like Earth, Sun, Fire, Rain, Lightning and Moon.

There will be grassroots marketing support only for that line, but Triarc also is introducing Snapple Hydro Thirst Quencher, with radio support from Deutsch, New York.

Tanimura & Antle introduced the first salad kit to include diced tomatoes, and on the other side of the aisle will be Lipton's Wish-Bone Gourmet Seasoned Croutons and take-along single-portion packs of Bestfoods' dressings.

Sara Lee Corp. showed off new flavors for its Cheesecake Bites and Cheesecake Singles line, expanding from test into national distribution with advertising from Foote, Cone & Belding, Chicago.

M&M/Mars sampled M&M's Vanilla Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich, coming nationally this summer, but wouldn't discuss ads.

NESTLE'S TARZAN TREATS

Looking suspiciously like M&M's were Tarzan Treats, at Nestle USA's booth, created to back that marketer's tie-in with Walt Disney Co.'s animated flick "Tarzan" starting in June.

Nestle also will bring out a Tarzan "fun pack" with a chocolate-banana version of its flagship Nestle's candy bar.

Ad details weren't available.

Perhaps the newest food fad: Sea shapes.

Nabisco Biscuit Co. is reprising for the second year its limited-time Barnum's Marine Animals cookies, and Quaker Oats Co. is expanding its Dino Eggs hot cereals with a Sea Adventures line. Keller's Specialty Butters has a line of

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