Nestle launches low-carb Carnation

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despite steady declines for its decades-old Carnation Instant Breakfast, Nestle hopes that trendy low-carb varieties, new packaging and advertising will help the brand compete with more-contemporary convenient breakfast options.

Nestle has made nutrition a central focus as it seeks hard-to-find growth in mature categories. To that end, it's hoping to update its flailing "Nutritional Energy Drink" with the May launch of Carb Conscious varieties that will receive the first advertising for Carnation Instant Breakfast in more than a year.

Sales of the original convenient breakfast have toppled from roughly $75 million in 1998 to $58 million in 2003, according to Information Resources Inc., while rivals have been seeing great success for similarly positioned smoothies.

According to Steven Addis, president of strategic identity firm Addis Group, meal replacement has become a hot brand category. Nestle-while well poised to take advantage of the trend-has not stayed relevant despite high awareness of the brand among baby boomers, he said. "People are more sophisticated than in the `70s when [Carnation] was popular, and to win, Nestle needs to truly reformulate rather than just take the same old stuff and make it low-carb," he said.

Nestle is focusing more on the zero-sugar carbs and minimal net carbs per serving of its Carnation Instant Breakfast varieties for the Carb Conscious. The reformulation of its existing lineup of powdered and ready-to-drink breakfasts will focus, according to sales materials, on "delivering a richer, creamier, fresher- tasting product" rather than on any new combinations of vitamins or nutrients such as its competitors are touting.

Nestle's five Carb Conscious items, two sugar-free varieties and its existing line will all get a packaging update touting the reformulation, and ready-to-drink steel cans will be replaced with more contemporary pouches. Print ads in women's magazines as well as radio and newspaper inserts, all from Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann Erickson Worldwide, New York, will begin running in May.

Nestle repositioned Carnation Instant Breakfast in 1999 with a $10 million media push, but sales brand declined despite the efforts. Media spending has fallen every year since, down to nothing in 2003, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

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