The activity comes amid falling ad expenditures by food marketers, who cut pages 10% in 1996 resulting in a 1.8% drop in ad dollars, to $664.3 million, according to Publishers Information Bureau.
'MR. FOOD' COMING IN APRIL
The newest in the field is aimed at the average cook rather than the epicurean. Mr. Food's Easy Cooking, being tested by Hearst, will debut April 15.
"It's serving the supper trade-what's for supper tonight," said John Mack Carter, president of Hearst Magazines Enterprises, the developmental arm of Hearst Magazines.
The first test issue, with 10.5 ad pages including ads for Kraft Foods' Cool Whip, Hershey Foods Corp. and the Beef Council, will get 400,000 copies at newsstands nationwide with a $2.95 cover price.
It will be followed with a second issue in the fall.
Since the new entry is aimed clearly at the masses who use package foods-not exotic ingredients-as an integral part of their food preparation, Hearst thinks circulation could ultimately hit 1 million.
Two other niche food titles are shifting gears.
One is Time Inc.'s Weight Watchers, which averaged 976,000 copies sold in the second half of '96 and missed its rate base of 1 million. The title saw ad pages fall 15.4% to 339.4 last year. Time bought the magazine from H.J. Heinz Co. in April 1996 and hired veteran editor Kate Greer to take over the next July.
'EATING WELL' SEES PAGES DROP
Hachette's Eating Well managed a 1.2% gain in circulation to 652,773, but its pages dropped 13.1% to 242.2 as management changed in October.
"There's no doubt [Eating Well] has been undermarketed in the past in terms of reaching advertisers," said Missy Chase, who jumped from Gourmet to become publisher in November.
A redesign in the May/June issue has already succeeded in attracting Commercial Aluminum Cookware Co.'s Calphalon brand for the first time. Ms. Chase is predicting a jump of at least 100 ad pages for this year.
"We hit the everyday cook, but with an emphasis on health and fitness," said Ms. Chase, who upped the magazines frequency this year to eight issues a year (from six) with plans to hike it again next year to 10.
Time Inc. food book veteran Jeff Ward, who achieved success as the publisher of its Cooking Light before being promoted to senior VP-publisher of Weight Watchers, is trying a slightly different tack.
He's cut frequency to six times a year from 12. At the same time, he's doubling coverage of beauty and fashion to 30% of the overall mix and lowering the food editorial by about 10% to about one-third of the total.
"Food is only one component of this magazine," Mr. Ward said.
He also plans to dramatically increase the newsstand draw to 300,000 and drop several million pieces of direct mail over the next year to boost subscriptions.
By 1998, he expects to add three more issues and increase frequency to nine times a year.
The magazine unveiled a new logo in November and completed the editorial