Lipton line goes on a health-Tea kick

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Unilever hopes to revive its lagging Lipton brand with a major push behind the century-old brand that highlights tea's health benefits.

The drive includes the relaunch of Lipton's ready-to-drink iced-tea lineup that Unilever co-markets with Pepsi Cola Co. through the Pepsi-Lipton Tea Partnership to make it more healthful, and the introduction of a line of sugar-free, no-calorie powdered To Go packets intended to help Unilever tap in to the growth of the $9 billion bottled-water market.

The strategy, which includes the addition of an AOX ("antioxidant") logo on packaging to reflect the level of healthy antioxidants, was developed in conjunction with Omnicom's Arnell Group. Chairman-CEO Peter Arnell said that Lipton is now "front and center in Unilever's portfolio" because of the world's focus on health trends.

Matt Patsky, portfolio manager at Winslow Management Co., an investment company focusing largely on the healthful-living sector, believes tea-the benefits of which have been borne out through long-term research-is a better health bet than low-carb. Unilever last year spent $24 million in media pushing its Carb Options line of 30-plus low-carb versions of some of its top brands.

`TEA CAN DO THAT'

He's skeptical, however, of Lipton's ability to own a health positioning. "Unilever will need to overcome Lipton's very low-quality brand image in the U.S. market," he said. Unilever might be better off buying another brand rather than trying to use Lipton to leverage the health benefits of tea, Mr. Patsky said.

The estimated $20 million push on Lipton, against which Unilever spent less than $1 million last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence, features print beginning this month and TV launching in April touting the beverage's naturally protective antioxidants under the umbrella theme, "Tea can do that."

"The consumer today is seeking healthy alternatives and Lipton is perfectly positioned to take advantage of that consumer desire," said Peter Waxman, senior brand director, Lipton Beverage.

The Lipton ad campaign, the first under Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide, New York, which will also feature outreach to doctors and health-care providers as well as strategic alliances, will highlight a variety of green-tea items in order to take advantage of 36%-plus growth in the green-tea segment compared to flat growth trends for the mainstream tea category, Mr. Waxman said.

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