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Nabisco Biscuit Co. is trying to take its Air Crisps business to a new level with a cookie/cracker hybrid called Sweet Crispers.

The company today breaks an estimated $10 million to $15 million network TV campaign for the line, which is thin and cracker-shape like Air Crisps but comes in cookie-style flavors such as chocolate, caramel, cinnamon and honey.

Although Sweet Crispers arrives under the auspices of Eric O'Toole, Nabisco's business director-cookies, he said the product most likely will be measured in the cracker category by sales monitoring services such as Information Resources Inc.

"We've had a tough time deciding where to put it," he said.


"It's really creating a new spot in the marketplace," said Colleen Gowl, exec VP-worldwide account director for Nabisco at Foote, Cone & Belding, New York. "It's not a cookie or a cracker. It's something entirely new."

Nabisco has therefore decided against alluding to the cookie/

cracker debate in the ad campaign. Its Sweet Crispers commercial instead focuses on the fact that it's a sweet snack you can eat by the handful because of its generously sized serving of 18 squares.

"Sweet snacking is often a dilemma" because the portions are small, Ms. Gowl said. Sweet Crispers has 130 calories and 2.5 grams of fat per serving.

The spot shows actress Vicky Lewis of NBC's "NewsRadio" stuffing Sweet Crispers into her mouth. Talking throughout while continuously eating, she discusses how men seem to be able to eat as much as they want but women didn't have that luxury-until now. The tagline is "Life just got a little more fair."

Mr. O'Toole said Nabisco wants the message to resonate with its target audience of women ages 25 to 49.

"It speaks to women's desire to indulge in a very permissive way," he said. To get the product out into their hands, Nabisco also plans a heavy sampling blitz of 35,000 stores intended to give out 9 million samples in total.

In addition to the TV spot, in-store advertising will be used.


Although the cracker category is smaller than the cookie category, it's growing faster. IRI reports cracker sales were $2.8 billion, up 4.1%, for the 53 weeks ended March 29. Cookies were up 2.2% to $3.7 billion.

Nabisco is the runaway share leader in both categories, but its sales growth has been nearly flat.

In cookies, Nabisco had $1.3 billion in sales, up 0.2%, according to IRI, while its $1.3 billion in cracker sales was up 0.4%. Nabisco has a 35% share in cookies and 46% in crackers.

Sweet Crispers is an attempt to leverage Air Crisps, a "hand-to-mouth" snack cracker line that has brought in more than $150 million in sales since its October 1995 introduction. Nabisco has gradually expanded Air Crisps with extensions using its other brand names such as Ritz, a strategy it could possibly apply to Sweet Crispers.


The Sweet Crispers "line is based on non-branded flavors," Mr. O'Toole said, noting the company hasn't ruled out lines like Oreo Crispers at a later date should the concept catch on.

"Conceptually, we could leverage it," he said, "but that would be much further down the line."

Nabisco has loosely played with the concept in the past with a line called Honey Maid Crisps (an extension of the graham cracker) that was pulled in 1996.

"We missed on delivering against the flavors, and we didn't support it [sufficiently] from an advertising and promotion standpoint," Mr. O'Toole said.

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