KRAFT GOES FOR TASTE WITH WAFFLE CRISP;AS GEN'L MILLS, KELLOGG TOUT HEALTHY CEREALS, POST BRAND DIGS INTO FLAVOR

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As Kellogg Co. and General Mills rush into new health advertising for established brands, rival Kraft Foods is pursuing a taste strategy with a new cereal.

Kraft Foods is preparing a multimillion-dollar national TV campaign for Post Waffle Crisp, breaking Feb. 26. Ads from Ogilvy & Mather, New York, will focus on the taste of "grandma's" home-made waffles and syrup in the new product.

LOOKING FOR A BOOST

With the introduction, Kraft's No. 3 Post division is hoping to duplicate the successful debuts of its Banana Nut Crunch and Blueberry Morning and raise its cereal sales, which fell 6.4% to $1 billion last year.

Post is touting taste while "healthy" themes are being pursued by market leader Kellogg and No. 2 Big G.

General Mills is running a newspaper and TV effort for Cheerios via Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, New York, promoting Cheerios as "a heart-right breakfast." Advertising boasts that the brand meets the American Heart Association's nutrition guidelines.

Health is in the news again with the Food & Drug Administration's possible approval of the first food-specific health claim for oatmeal (AA, Jan. 29) and a study from the Harvard School of Public Health published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association on fiber's benefits.

The latest study said fiber from all sources-but especially cereal-protects against coronary heart disease.

"The health push is going to have a positive effect not only on the individual cereal brand but on the category as a whole," said John Sommerville, brand manager for Cheerios. "The category grows during times of nutrition news."

The industry's marketing push unfolds as ready-to-eat cereal sales have fallen. The $7.9 billion market fell 2.3% last year, according to Information Resources Inc., and all four major cereal marketers, including Quaker Oats Co., experienced declines.

Cheerios' AHA push follows several brand extensions of core brands Cheerios and Wheaties.

In September, General Mills launched Frosted Cheerios and it has captured $44.5 million in sales so far, or 0.6% of the market, according to IRI. Other spinoffs include Honey Frosted Wheaties.

As for Kellogg, it ran newspaper ads Feb. 14 with the fiber news, from Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, headlined "Save your heart. And your colon." It touted a lineup of fiber-based cereals.

"Kellogg is very committed to getting information out about the benefits of eating a diet that is high in fiber," said Celeste Clark, VP-worldwide nutrition.

Judann Pollack contributed to this story.

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