IACOCCA SETS OLIVIO SPREAD LAUNCH;$10 MIL BUDGET SEEN FOR FIRST OLIVE OIL-BASED MARGARINE

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Lee Iacocca, after abandoning his effort to acquire Chrysler Corp., is setting his sights on the margarine business. And his new partner, after Kirk Kerkorian, is Nabisco's Fleischmann's unit.

Nabisco will manufacture and handle sales for new Olivio margarine, from Nicola Co., a company 90% owned by Mr. Iacocca and run by Ned Hentz, his son-in-law and a former BBDO Worldwide creative director.

Nicola will handle the marketing for the rollout-beginning this month-of what it claims is the first olive oil-based margarine.

"Olivio is the first buttery flavor spread with olive oil," said Nicola Managing Director Vincent Autry, the former president of J.H. Filbert Co. Mr. Autry said Filbert created the I Can't Believe It's Not Butter brand, later sold to Unilever's Van den Bergh Foods.

Mr. Autry said the company will spend "on the same level as" I Can't Believe It's Not Butter for the rollout. The Unilever unit spent $10 million introducing its spray version during the first nine months of 1995, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Mr. Iacocca will act as spokesman in the TV campaign for Olivio, created by North Castle Partners, Stamford, Conn.

In the commercial, Mr. Iacocca is seen strolling through the Italian countryside of Tuscany, relating how the lifestyle there led to the development of Olivio, a buttery tasting spread.

VAN DEN BERGH LEADS CATEGORY

In positioning itself against I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, Olivio is going up against a brand family with 17% of the $1.3 billion margarine/spread market, according to Information Resources Inc. figures. Van den Bergh is the category leader with a 47.6% share, compared with Nabisco's 20%.

I Can't Believe It's Not Butter is beginning a new campaign of its own using another famous Italian. Heartthrob Fabio is starring in a new national TV effort breaking Feb. 26 from McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York.

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