P&G BRINGS WASH DAY TO VEGGIES

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Procter & Gamble Co. will get down to the nitty-gritty with a new product designed to clean fruits and vegetables.

Fit Produce Rinse in September starts testing in Colorado and Wyoming supermarket chains and mass merchandising outlets.

P&G claims the product will remove up to 90% of unwanted surface residue such as wax, dirt and chemicals. Made from natural ingredients including baking soda and citric acid, Fit will be promoted in a TV and print campaign from Grey Advertising, New York, with the theme: "Good. Clean. Fit."

With Fit Produce Rinse, P&G is the first major package-goods company to enter the niche category. It's providing retailers with free standing displays carrying the message, "Fit Produce Rinse. Cleans fruits and vegetables better than water alone."

"You don't wash your hands with water alone or brush your teeth or do your clothes or dishes with just water," said Carol Berning, P&G associate director of consumer research. "We did a lot of consumer research, and there really is a need here. About 96% of consumers wash fresh produce before they eat, and they just shake their heads. What they see is wax on apples and broccoli, for example."

The vegetable and fruit cleaning category certainly is undeveloped, though several small companies sell such products mainly in health food stores. So far, neither Information Resources Inc. nor Nielsen Marketing Research tracks vegetable and fruit cleaning product sales.

Marketing Intelligence Service, a Naples, N.Y.-based new-product reporting company, last year tested Uncle Bob's Fruit & Vegetable Wash from Omega Products, Harrisburg, Pa., and Garden Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Wash from Garden Fresh, Memphis, Tenn.

"They did horribly," recalled Tom Vierhile, general manager for Marketing Intelligence Service.

Even P&G acknowledges a fruit and vegetable cleaner wouldn't be mentioned first by consumers as a product they must have.

"It's a latent need, right under the surface," Ms. Berning said. "Once you mention the need, the light bulb goes on and it's very important to consumers-particularly to mothers and people who prepare food for someone else."

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