KAL KAN BROACHES SUBJECT OF PRENATAL CARE FOR CANINES

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With new advertising breaking next month, Kal Kan Foods is focusing on what it believes is a new frontier in dog food advertising: prenatal care.

The Mars Inc. unit's Pedigree brand continues its "Recommended by top breeders" ad platform, but one of four new commercials opens with a shot of tiny puppies and says, "this puppy is only 16 days old but she's been getting Pedigree for more than nine weeks."

REPRODUCTION SPECIALIST

The spot, which features breeder and canine reproduction specialist Fran Smith, lays out the claim that Pedigree contains such good nutrition it's best to feed it to pregnant pooches or, as the spot says, when they're "eating for two."

The campaign is from Grey Advertising, Los Angeles.

Vreij Kolandjian, VP-franchise at Kal Kan Foods, said the idea came from interviews with Ms. Smith.

"There's a strong anthropomorphism between humans and pets," said Mr. Kolandjian. "While everyone understands how a pregnant mother should be careful what she eats, they don't often realize it's the same for a pregnant [dog]."

He said the positioning is a first for the industry; print ads will support, starting in April magazines.

`BREEDER' ADS WORKING

The "breeder" campaign Kal Kan has been running since the 1980s appears to be working. Kal Kan is the leading marketer in the $901.3 million canned dog food category for the 52 weeks ended Jan. 26, according to Information Resources Inc., with $354.6 million in sales. Dollar sales were up 3.4%, giving the marketer a 39.3% share.

Including the Alpo brand acquired from Grand Metropolitan, Nestle has $248 million in sales for a share of 27.5%, IRI said, while H.J. Heinz Co. is No. 3 with $180.2 million and a 20% share.

Mr. Kolandjian said Kal Kan's share has benefited from increasing distribution in pet supply superstores and a direct comparison campaign last year against rival Iams Co. The category, moreover, has grown as marketers ratchet up ad spending, he maintains.

"More marketers in the category have realized the power of advertising," he said. "The [category's total] ad spending figures must have doubled since '92."

The rise includes Kal Kan, whose measured spending for the first nine months of '96 totaled $25 million, a 54% gain over the same period in 1995 according to Competitive Media Reporting. That may jump even further this year as the company tools up a new product; Kal Kan is said by retail executives to be planning a new casserole-style dog food under the Pedigree name later this year.

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