The move, which includes the addition of four SnackWell's brownie and snack bars, puts Nabisco into the $6 billion packaged sweet goods category, competing with Campbell Soup Co.'s Pepperidge Farm brand, Drake Bakeries and McKee Foods Corp.'s Little Debbie products, among others.
The initiative follows the licensing of Chips Ahoy! and Oreo brownie baking mixes to Pillsbury Co., and a new Chips Ahoy! ice cream being readied by Eskimo Pie Corp. for a summer rollout. Nabisco already markets Oreo and Chips Ahoy! granola bars and licenses the Oreo name for ice cream, ice cream cones, pie crusts and cookie crumb toppings.
This follows Nabisco's approach for Wheat Thins and Ritz Air Crisps crackers, positioned more as hand-held on-the-go snacks than something to be topped with cheese, said Dave Adam, product manager-baked development at Nabisco.
"The Air Crisps initiative extended the definition of what a cracker is," Mr. Adam said. "These new [brownie and snack bar products] straddle the line between bakery snacks and cookies. It's the sweet snack analog for crackers."
Nabisco is planning an estimated $10 million-plus national ad push for the brownie and snack bars that will include network TV breaking in September from FCB/Leber Katz Partners, New York.
The products begin phased distribution later this month in New England, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, initially supported by couponing and in-store media.
TV spots will pitch a new Nabisco snack-cake area the company is setting up in grocery aisles, Mr. Adam said. But the campaign will support the SnackWell's brownie and snack bars only, he said.
"We felt it would be more prudent" to concentrate on SnackWell's in the advertising, he noted, due to the fact there are no other "wellness" snack cakes on the market and because the hot-selling brand now has $600 million in sales muscle behind it.
AD STARS COOKIE MAN
In the commercial, the company's Cookie Man character is beset by frantic women seeking the SnackWell's brownie and snack bars before he can set up his display.
The SnackWell's lines include fudge and chocolate cherry brownie bars and banana and golden snack bar varieties, all with 2 grams of fat per bar. Both they and the Oreo and Chips Ahoy! bars will be sold five to a box.
Nabisco said it will continue to extend its brand names into new categories, albeit cautiously.
"We want to protect them and keep them in the right categories," said a spokeswoman, adding "we'd like to expand their reach everywhere."