MYLANTA TARGETS CHILDREN

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"My mommy said Mylanta."

Looking to protect its struggling Mylanta franchise during a shakeout of the stomach remedies market, Johnson & Johnson/Merck is rolling out a children's extension of the brand in June.

An estimated $5 million to $7 million TV and print campaign will begin June 7 for the line's rollout, according to retail trade materials. J&J spent $36 million on the entire brand in 1995, according to Competitive Media Reporting, through Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising's Healthcare Connection, New York.

Bubble gum and fruit flavors in both chewable and liquid forms will be available. The retail price will be in the $4.50 range, but as part of the promotional package $4 in-store rebates are planned.

The notion of such adult problems as acid indigestion, sour stomach and heartburn in children amused some industry observers.

"I never thought there was a need. I wonder if this is an idea asking for a home," said Don Stuart, a partner at Cannondale Associates. "It is breaking new ground. However, with all the changes in the category, traditional products are under some heavy competition; I see this as a tactic to relieve that."

Mr. Stuart estimated potential sales in the $40 million range.

J&J is seeking incremental growth opportunities for the sagging brand, which holds an 11.9% share and second place in the $1.35 billion category but saw sales drop 12% to $160.5 million for the year ended Feb. 25, according to Information Resources Inc.

SKYROCKETING CATEGORY

Marketing spending of more than $300 million by acid blockers vying for share has sent the category skyrocketing 20% while upsetting older brands. Mylanta recently yielded the top spot to its new sibling brand, acid blocker Pepcid AC, barely a year old and already generating sales of $180.5 million.

KIDDIE QUEST

There has been increasing interest in extending adult brands into children's products over the last year. Warner-Lambert Co. went that route last year with allergy brands Benadryl and Sudafed, while J&J's McNeil Consumer Products Co.'s did the same with Motrin.

Sales for the children's version of Benadryl were $40.2 million for the year ended April 28, while Sudafed Pediatric had $11.2 million, gathering respective market shares of 1.6% and 0.4% in the overall cough-cold category.

`DIFFICULT' MISSION

"They've tried to do children's extensions for a long time, but it has always been difficult," said Paul Kelly, president of Silvermine Consulting. "There have only been two very successful [kids] brands over the last 40 years-St. Joseph and Tylenol."

Schering-Plough Corp.'s St. Joseph brand quit making children's aspirin in the mid-1980's due to consumer fears about Reye's syndrome. That left Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s Tempra acetaminophen brand, marketed by Mead Johnson, with sales of just $7 million, for the year ended Mar. 31.

Less than a year ago, McNeil introduced children's Motrin, licensing the ibuprofen brand from Upjohn Co. With sales of $30.9 million, it remains a small rival to Children's Tylenol, with sales of $167.2 million, a sizable portion of the brand's overall sales.

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