Lacking industry giants, FMI downsizes showcase

Food marketing group's 2006 show attended by mostly smaller companies

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Like food marketers themselves, the Food Marketing Institute is being forced to do things differently in order to survive. The trade association plans to shift its product-exhibit showcase to once every other year rather than annually, and, instead of meeting regularly in Chicago, the show will be held in alternating venues to lower costs and add interest.

Though the 2006 FMI Show featured nearly 2,000 exhibitors, those are now largely made of smaller companies. Many of the largest manufacturers, among them Procter & Gamble, Sara Lee Corp., Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., Hormel Foods and H.J. Heinz Co., were no-shows.

Among the handful of top marketers that were in attendance-many with booth sizes that reflected the reduced emphasis placed on the show-the focus was clearly on proving to retailers they could cater to the growing number of Hispanic shoppers and provide more healthful portfolios.

Kellogg, for example, made marketing to Hispanics in the U.S. the theme of its booth. It featured loud Latin music, Zumba demonstrations and Mexican beauty queen Laura Elizondo to draw attention to the fact that the market now spends $136 billion on food and beverages annually.

According to Sandra Uridge, senior director-multicultural marketing at Kellogg, the company will nearly double its multicultural marketing staff to 14 by next year and will "significantly increase our marketing budget." In addition to using TV, print and the crucial radio medium, Kellogg will tout bilingual packaging and, for the first time, feature bilingual point-of-sale materials and launch Hispanic versions of its mainstream programs, including using bilingual nurses for its Healthy Beginnings in-store health screenings.

Kellogg is also likely to push its organic versions of cereals and snacks to Hispanics, since a recent FMI study showed 39% of Hispanics buy organic vs. only 25% of the general market.

focus on hispanics

Targeting Hispanic consumers was also a major theme for Unilever, which recently completed a report on "Winning the Hispanic Shopping Trip," and Coca-Cola Co., which pledged to do far more to connect with Hispanic consumers than just feature them in their advertising. General Mills, too, is catering more and more to Hispanics with the launch of Nestle La Lechera Flakes cereal and a special Yoplait family pack in bilingual packaging with flavors including mango and Pina Colada.

On the health front, fruit-based products are clearly on the rise, the closer to the real thing the better. Kellogg's Kashi Co. will roll out a line of fruit snacks this July dubbed FruitaBu, which are described as "organic smooshed fruit" and come in "flats" in flavors including apple, apricot and grape. General Mills, meanwhile, bows Nature Valley Fruit Crisps this August. The snacks, crispy pieces of baked apples in original apple and cinnamon apple varieties, are 50 calories per serving.

Campbell Soup Co. touted the ability to get a full serving of fruit plus a full serving of vegetables in a glass of its V8 VFusion. And even Nestle's Raisinettes are getting a makeover for the health age, with packaging for new Dark Chocolate Raisinettes picturing a bunch of grapes and touting the candy's "fruit and antioxidants" from the raisins and the flavenols found in dark chocolate.

The health push has gone so far as to invade wholly new categories, including flour and poultry. Con-Agra this June will launch Healthy Choice All-Purpose White Flour with Whole Grains in Texas, Virginia and North Carolina Wal-Mart stores.

Tyson, meanwhile, will convert all of its fresh marinated chicken to 100% natural, featuring on its packages the fact that it has no artificial ingredients and no added hormones or steroids. That change will be supported with TV, print, radio, Internet and in-store efforts beginning June 12. Tyson will also launch Trimmed & Ready chicken, stripped of excess fat and skin, that will get major ad support beginning July 10.

What’s cooking...

* Kellogg’s Kashi rolls out FruitaBu, "organic smooshed fruit"

* General Mills caters to Hispanics with bilingual packaging for Yoplait

* Nestle’s Dark Chocolate Raisinettes tout health benefits

* Tyson launches "Trimmed and Ready" chicken, sans excess fat and skin
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