KRAFT EXPANDING TACO BELL FOODS TO 60% OF U.S.: GROCERY LINE'S AD CAMPAIGN WILL HIT NEW MARKETS IN MARCH

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Encouraged by its first five months of marketing Taco Bell-branded grocery products, Kraft Foods is increasing distribution to 60% of the country and will expand its ad campaign in March.

Paul Singer, VP-marketing strategy at Kraft, said the line of meal kits-including salsas, seasoning mixes, beans, dips and con queso sauces-has been renamed Taco Bell Home Originals and will move into Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Kansas City and Denver. The line currently is in about 40% of the U.S.

In the new markets, Kraft will run a 30-second spot called "Dinnertime" that began airing last October.

PURCHASED FROM PEPSICO

Kraft purchased the Taco Bell grocery line from PepsiCo last August; it had been marketed by PepsiCo's Frito-Lay unit. PepsiCo decided to sell the line because Frito's expertise lay in store-door delivery and supermarket brands, such as Mexican foods, are mainly warehoused.

Kraft didn't say what it was spending on the Taco Bell line, but the company is expected to well exceed the almost $2 million spent in measured media during the first nine months of 1996, when the brand was mainly under Frito-Lay's stewardship.

Mr. Singer said Kraft, which tends to keep a close stable of ad agencies, made the unusual decision to keep Taco Bell's restaurant agency Bozell, Costa Mesa, Calif., to make the brand's message "completely synergistic" with the restaurant advertising.

"We want to insure we're truly maximizing the brand equity with a campaign that speaks to the fun, freshness and free spirit of the brand," he said.

The "Dinnertime" commercial shows a teen-ager's excitement that her mother is making tacos, a strategy that stays in line with the Taco Bell restaurant ad theme that this is no "ordinary" meal.

All advertising and promotion revolves around positioning the line as a home meal replacement, Mr. Singer said.

LOCAL PROMOS PLANNED

Kraft is planning local promotions tied to the meal-replacement theme, tying Taco Bell with its other logical brands such as Kraft shredded cheeses and the company's Breakstone sour cream.

Future promotions "could involve some TV advertising, a flyer, direct mail and in-store merchandising," Mr. Singer said, and "bring [the products] to one convenient display in the store."

According to Information Resources Inc., Taco Bell grocery product sales for the 52 weeks ended Dec. 1 were $45.6 million, up 11.5%. In taco kits, the brand had sales of $23.5 million, up 90.8% for a 4.2% share, while in Mexican sauces the brand held a 1.9% share with $14.5 million in sales.

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