The product, a crisped rice version of the Snickers bar, is part of an effort to grow the $1 billion brand's sales by introducing a new variety. M&M/Mars has successfully leveraged its M&M's candy into a mega-brand with a series of innovations -- the most recent of which, M&M's Crispy, was launched on the 1999 Super Bowl. But Bob Gamgort, VP-marketing for M&M/Mars, said it's not necessarily the beginning of a similar strategy for Snickers.
"When we track favorite candy brands with consumers, Snickers comes out to be No. 1 across all age groups, but it's not the largest brand in terms of sales, in part because we haven't given people a lot of variety," he said. "We want to increase Snickers' role within the broader repertoire of consumers' confectionery purchases, and to do that, texture is key."
The only previous extension of Snickers, a peanut butter variety now discontinued, wasn't differentiated enough from the base brand's smooth, chewy texture, but Cruncher's crispy texture is, Mr. Gamgort said.
Crispy candy sales also are growing at a fast clip. According to M&M/Mars research from Information Resources Inc., the crunchy/crispy chocolate segment grew 13.6% in 1999 compared with growth in the regular chocolate segment of only 4.8%. M&M/Mars' own M&M's Crispy launch last year played to that trend, making up 12% of the total for that growing segment and amassing roughly $150 million in sales in its first year.
M&M's Crispy also contributed greatly to M&M/Mars' total share growth of 0.5% last year, showing it brought incremental users to the category.
Mr. Gamgort said he anticipates Snickers Cruncher will drive sales growth as well. Expectations are that sales for Cruncher could reach $105 million in its first year, roughly 70% of M&M's Crispy, he said.
Mars wants to reach current Snickers users and increase their purchase frequency with the launch of Cruncher, marketing efforts likely will continue in the vein of the current campaign from BBDO Worldwide, New York, themed "Hungry? Grab a Snickers." The TV effort will play up the crispy texture of the new product and Snickers' new ability to satisfy a variety of tastes.
In addition to traditional TV and print, M&M/Mars plans to incorporate elements of the underground marketing approach it used to relaunch Milky Way Dark as Milky Way Midnight in May (AA, April 17). Among them will be creative uses of the Internet, outdoor advertising and sampling efforts.
M&M/Mars spent $214 million in measured media in 1999, with $77 million put toward its leading M&M's brand and $25 million on Snickers, according to Competitive Media Reporting.