GENERAL MILLS UPS ANTE WITH CEREAL INTRODUCTIONS;ADDS NEW BRAND; BACKS BAKED BETTY CROCKER LINE INTRO WITH $50 MIL SUPPORT

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Despite the price-cutting that is sweeping the $7.8 billion ready-to-eat cereal market, General Mills' new-product activity continues at a fever pitch.

The marketer's latest offering, a kids' cereal called French Toast Crunch, will join Betty Crocker Cinnamon Streusel and Dutch Apple, two baked cereals now completing national distribution.

French Toast Crunch is now being presented to retailers.

BOOST IN ADVERTISING

Coming on top of a reintroduction of Honey Nut Clusters, the launches are significant because they represent a big boost in advertising and promotion for the No. 2 cereal marketer, at a time when competitors claim their ad budgets are being sacrificed for price cuts.

Mark Addicks, director of new ventures-cereal at General Mills, said he sees "no new product slowdown in the industry" due to the price-cutting of last April.

And there's certainly no slowdown in Big G's ad spending.

The Betty Crocker cereals-touted as being supported with the largest consumer marketing campaign in the company's history-are estimated to be supported with a combined $50 million in advertising and promotion. That includes introductory coupons and trade promotions expected to reduce the cereal's $3.39 suggested retail price 41.3% to $1.99.

$10 MIL FOR FRENCH TOAST CRUNCH

French Toast Crunch, by contrast, is expected to get about $10 million in support, from Campbell Mithun Esty, Minneapolis.

Big G is focusing most of its resources on the Betty Crocker lines, being handled by DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago.

"This is a huge franchise and equity for us," said Mr. Addicks of the Betty Crocker name, which can easily serve as a springboard for other new baked cereals.

The company estimates total sales of Betty Crocker-branded products at $1.3 billion a year, excluding the new cereals.

The cereals will get TV, print and radio advertising support, along with direct mail, tie-ins with other Betty Crocker products and a "Got milk?" tie-in with Dairy Management.

Playing off the "red spoon" logo on existing Betty Crocker products, the company is placing giant spoons on the floors of supermarkets leading to the cereal shelf as well as mailing red spoons to consumers.

`A LOT OF PERSONALITY'

"You'll see a lot of personality" in the marketing of the product, Mr. Addicks said.

The TV campaign, which starts filming this week, shows a "real-life situation in the kitchen" with a couple bantering in the style of sitcoms like "Mad About You," he said.

TV spots will begin airing the second week in October.

Another unusual tack is radio advertising, a medium rarely used for cereal.

Mr. Addicks said radio promotions such as a "Have breakfast with Betty Crocker" effort-planned for Austin, Texas, in combination with retailer Randall's-will give consumers a chance to dive into a huge cereal bowl on the air to win money.

With the exception of French Toast Crunch, most of the new products in Big G's bowl are aimed at all-family consumption.

Mr. Addicks said plain-sweetened cereals such as the Betty Crocker and Frosted Cheerios lines account for about 20% of the total cereal category and are growing somewhere between 7% and 12% annually.

GROWTH DRIVEN BY VALUE

He said the growth is being driven by a need for value, with parents seeking out a cereal that will actually be consumed by the family, rather than a brand that will be tried once by the kids and then left to languish on the family's pantry shelf.

Mr. Addicks fully expects good results from the Betty Crocker cereals, noting that in Louisville, Ky., where the product is already on shelves, it racked up a surprising 1.5% share of the category in its first week.

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