Nutribar heads south to U.S.

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A Canadian company wants to tap into a blossoming field of products aimed at overweight consumers with the U.S. introduction of a meal-replacement bar called Nutribar.

The 250-calorie offering is available in this country in four flavors: chocolate peanut butter, chocolate fudge, cappuccino crunch and deep brownie delight. Women are the target of the rollout, scheduled to be completed this month, including an estimated $4 million ad campaign through June featuring one TV spot and one magazine ad. The ads are based on the concept that food calls hungry people.

Stella Pharmaceutical Co. hopes Nutribar, until recently available only in Canada, will give it heft in the $360 million-plus U.S. energy bar/meal-replacement category dominated by Unilever Bestfoods' Slim Fast, Nestle's PowerBar and Kraft Foods' Balance Bar. Last year, this category received more than $52 million in U.S. measured-media spending, up from $35 million in 1999, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. In the first half of this year alone, the segment was supported with more than $56 million in measured-media outlays. Nutribar advertising is handled by Jordan McGrath Case & Partners, New York, part of Havas Advertising's Arnold Worldwide Partners.

Unlike some energy bars, however, Nutribar is aimed squarely at dieters. "The biggest [roadblock to] dieting is hunger. If you're not hungry, it's much easier to pass up that piece of cake," said Rochelle Klein, executive vice chairman-creative director at the agency. "When you're hungry, food can call you."

About 54% of American adults are overweight (up from 45% a decade earlier), according to the Centers for Disease Control, and an estimated 70 million people are trying to lose weight.

Nutribars retail for about $1.20 and weigh 65 grams. The marketer claims they stave off hunger for five hours-longer than competitors such as the 56-gram, 210-calorie Jenny Craig bar from Kraft, the 50-gram, 200-calorie Balance Bar or the 65-gram Gatorade Energy Bar from PepsiCo, which has 260 calories and 5 grams of fat. Nutribar contains 8 grams of fat and 32 grams of carbohydrates (12% of the daily fat allowance and 10% of the carbohydrate allowance for a 2,000-calorie a day diet). The ads feature the "It's big. So you're not" tag.

"They're a little more indulgent than the classic energy or fitness bars," said Suzanne Cecchi, senior VP-management supervisor at Jordan McGrath.

Ads are slated to break this week on cable and syndicated TV during prime-time and late-night programming aimed at the brand's 35- to 54-year-old target.

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