Since their inception in 1989, Lunchables meal combination kits have grown to $800 million in sales, largely on the basis of the brand's interactivity and customization, said Tim Cofer, senior business director for Lunchables at Kraft. Now the marketer, aiming at building sales beyond the brand's 20% annual growth rate, is making a play to create a similar incremental category in the $60 billion snack arena.
"Play value is the magic behind Lunchables, and that's what we're now bringing to the snack occasion-delivering fun for kids rather than just a cookie or a brownie," Mr. Cofer said.
By the end of the year, the Philip Morris Cos. unit to leverage its new ownership of Nabisco by integrating the cookie and cracker marketer's top brands such as Oreo and Ritz into the kits. Kraft also will use Nabisco's strong direct-store sales force to gain distribution for Fun Snacks, which will extend the Lunchables franchise beyond the refrigerated case for the first time.
The initial line of three-component snack kits includes six varieties, including a chocolate cookie with Pillsbury vanilla frosting and M&M mini milk chocolate candies and a Hostess fudge brownie with Pillsbury frosting and sprinkles. The suggested retail price for packages of two Fun Snacks is $1.69.
Should this sweets-on-top-of-sweets idea be cause for parental concern? According to a Kraft spokeswoman, the product concept tested high among parents. "Moms feel that snack time is a time to let the child choose,
and we realize Fun Snacks will be an occasional treat for kids," she said.
To tout the fun-to-build snack creation kits, Kraft plans to reach out to its primary 6- to 12-year-old kid target with an integrated ad, Internet and event plan centered around an animated clay character named Dillon and the theme, "Some snacks have all the fun."
TV ads set to run April through June, from WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson, Chicago, feature the inventive Dillon building a variety of things, from action figures to planes, and then turning to Lunchables Fun Snacks, "the only snack that allows you to build your own fun." Print ads in kid-targeted magazines also will support the launch, as will a mobile-marketing tour to all-family destinations this summer where Kraft will wage build-your-own-fun events and offer entry forms for a contest in which kids can win a $10,000 scholarship.
At www.lunchables.com, a new e-sampling program will offer 500 kids free Fun Snacks each day.
To reach out to its busy, on-the-go working mom target, Kraft also will run print ads in publications including AOL Time Warner's People and MacDonald Communications' Working Mother; it also will tie in with yet-to-be-finalized e-tailers to offer free samples of the snack with purchases.
Although the non-refrigerated status of the new Lunchables varieties offers the opportunity to merchandise the snacks in various parts of a store, Kraft also plans to leverage the strength of the meals business in the refrigerated meat department. Because moms and kids normally find the brand in that area, Kraft will place freestanding permanent shelving units next to the meat cases, although retailers excited about the new product likely will give it secondary placement elsewhere in the store, Mr. Cofer said.
Kraft spent $23 million in measured media on Lunchables in the first 11 months of 2000, according to Competitive Media Reporting.