NESTLE DRUMSTICK LEVERAGES TRADITION WITH SOME NEW TWISTS

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one of the fastest-growing products in retailers' ice cream freezer cases is 70 years old.

Nestle Drumstick, a standard among kids, has been reborn by taking the nostalgic Drumstick brand baby boomers grew up with and updating it with a bevy of sophisticated flavors that appeal to older taste buds.

The result, Nestle Drumstick Supreme, has propelled overall brand sales by more than 20% and helped ice cream cones become the second-fastest growing segment of frozen novelties, with sales up 10%.

The resurgence began in earnest last year, with Nestle Ice Cream Co.'s launch of four Supreme items-Vanilla Chip With Chocolate Chips, Strawberry Swirl, Cappuccino Coffee and Coffee With Chocolate Layers. This year, a Triple Chocolate variety featuring layers of milk, white and dark chocolate has been added.

For the new line only, the actual shape of the cone is changed-for the first time in the company's long history-by adding a "flower decorated" flat top.

"We took a product people know and love and brought innovation to it," said Kevin Srigley, Nestle Drumstick marketing manager, adding that the changes brought in "a lot of interest and a different set of consumers."

OUT OF THE ORDINARY

To point up the message that this isn't your ordinary Drumstick, Nestle is running a spot TV and outdoor advertising campaign from Publicis, Dallas.

The effort is running in U.S. markets chosen "as pockets of strength and opportunity," Mr. Srigley said.

A TV commercial shows an adult couple in a horse-drawn carriage and is set to the music of Frank Sinatra's "The Best Is Yet to Come." The woman devours a Strawberry Swirl Supreme cone.

Outdoor ads show all varieties, with the theme "A vacation from the ordinary."

Nestle wouldn't discuss spending on the effort, but Competitive Media Reporting data show $3 million in measured media expenditures for Drumstick in 1997, a large amount considering it's spent mainly during the short window of the spring/summer ice-cream season.

Moreover, with ad spending levels nosediving in the novelty category, a $3 million outlay is considerable.

ON THE RISE

Nestle's market share is climbing at a rapid pace. For the 52 weeks ended May 24, Drumstick sales increased a strong 20.4% to $93 million, tying Unilever's Popsicle brand for third place in the frozen novelty category, with a 5.7% share.

Sales of ice cream cone novelties-a segment of which Nestle has 60%-jumped 10%, according to IRI data for the 52 weeks ended June 14.

"We led that [segment] growth," said Mr. Srigley.

The invigoration of the segment appears to prove a theory advanced by a marketing executive from a Nestle competitor that novelties can grow if given enough new-product innovation.

"Novelties are underdeveloped," he said. "They now represent only 18% to 20% of the total [ice cream] category."

Nestle's Mr. Srigley said in explaining Drumstick's success: "I don't think it was one thing. We brought innovation, new flavors and a new eating experience."

Drumstick can sustain growth, too, he indicated.

"It'd be unrealistic to expect another year like last one," Mr. Srigley said, but "We're off to a good start."

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