JOE CIOFFI A1 BOLD

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What began as a marketing nightmare in September 1992 has since turned into a dream.

Joe Cioffi, then associate product manager-new products for Nabisco Foods Group's A1 steak sauce, learned rival Kraft General Foods was about to take aim at his category-leading brand.

"The advertising directly attacked A1, saying [KGF's] Bullseye was thicker than A1, it was spicier than A1, that it tasted better than A1," says the 30-year-old Mr. Cioffi, who earlier this year was named business manager-new-business development for Nabisco's Milk-Bone dog biscuits.

"We knew that our existing product had some vulnerabilities, even with its high market share." So, he says, "Our mission was clear. We could not let that happen."

A1's R&D managers had a new, spicier formula they were eager to use. Thus was born A1 Bold, named to undercut the competitor's positioning with "Big, bold taste"-themed ads.

"What we came up with by working with [agency] Lowe & Partners was a dual message, that A1 Bold is the steak sauce when you're in the mood for something spicy," he says, hoping to minimize cannibalization of A1 sales.

A TV commercial shows people describing what they want out of their steaks, then quickly cuts to shots of juicy slabs of meat smothered in steak sauce. The closing shot features both A1 and A1 Bold.

The new entry hit shelves and TV screens on the West Coast in March 1993, by which time Bullseye had gained a 10% share in that region. Within the first 12 weeks, A1 showed its Bold move was a winner, jumping to a 16% share.

Bold was expanded nationally in July 1993. Bullseye's position in the segment started to weaken in its West Coast markets, and by December it was gone.

A1 sales rose 7.7% to $113.6 million for the year ended March 27, 1994, according to Information Resources Inc. The brand now commands about 70% of the steak sauce category, up from a 61% share before the line extension.

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