P&G EYES ANOTHER AISLE WITH FOOD WRAP: PACKAGE-GOODS GIANT'S IMPRESS MARKS 1ST ENTRY IN $1.6 BIL BUSINESS

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Procter & Gamble Co. is testing a next-generation plastic wrap called Impress that could reinvent the category.

The thicker, high-performance brand would take aim not only at products such as the Reynolds, Glad and Saran Wrap brands of plastic wraps, but the entire $1.6 billion food-storage business.

NEW BRANDS PROMISED

Representing P&G's first entry into the food-storage market, Impress appears to be one of the 20 new brands President-CEO Durk Jager told securities analysts will be moved into test markets or national or global distribution by the end of next year.

Impress wrap is textured like paper towels and thicker than ordinary plastic wraps, allowing it to form a stronger seal that's watertight, making it an alternative not just to plastic wrap but also to sandwich bags. The wrap sticks to itself when pressed together, yet pulls apart fairly easily.

"If the goal is to create better plastic wrap, you essentially have a small idea," said one former P&G executive. "If you're trying to come up with a wrap that's so good it replaces [sandwich bags], now you've got a potentially big idea."

CONFIRM TEST IS COMING

The plastic food-wrap category accounts for about $200 million in sales, but food storage as a whole, including food bags and aluminum foil, rings up far more.

A P&G spokeswoman confirmed that Impress is under development and headed for test market, but would not comment on other aspects of the brand, its positioning or marketing.

VOLATILE CATEGORY

P&G's potential entry roils what already has become one of the most volatile categories in package goods in recent years.

Clorox Co. is preparing a new $30 million ad campaign for its recently acquired Glad brand from DDB Worldwide, San Francisco, for this summer. The effort will more than triple past spending on Glad under First Brands' ownership.

Oddly, DDB's New York office handles rival Tenneco Packaging, whose 1996 launch of Hefty OneZip bags breathed new life into the category and may have piqued interest of bigger marketers.

HEFTY SPENDING INCREASE

Tenneco has announced plans to quadruple ad spending on Hefty OneZip to more than $20 million, with new ads breaking this summer.

Results of that campaign could determine whether Tenneco, discomfited by DDB's decision to take on Glad earlier this year, stays with the agency.

S.C. Johnson & Son, which entered the category with the 1998 acquisition of Dowbrands, last year rolled out Slide-Loc, its version of Hefty-style zipper bags, with more than $10 million in ads from Foote, Cone & Belding, Chicago. Tenneco has sued S.C. Johnson, alleging infringement of the OneZip patent.

S.C. Johnson also acquired the Saran Wrap and HandiWrap brands in the Dowbrands deal, but has yet to put more marketing muscle behind them.

As for Impress, P&G wouldn't reveal which agency is working on it. The brand is managed by the marketer's tissue and towel global business unit; D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Jordan McGrath Case & Partners/Euro RSCG and Leo Burnett Co. each handle brands for that unit.

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