P&G last week also announced the launch in the Philippines of NutriDelight, a powdered spinoff of its Sunny Delight brand aimed at combating iron, iodine and vitamin A deficiencies, mostly in developing countries.
Vibrant and NutriDelight are part of a new-brand onslaught in which P&G plans to launch 20 products into test or global distribution by the end of 2001. Those are in addition to Dryel, Febreze, Swiffer and Olean-containing brands moved globally over the past two years.
With Vibrant, currently testing in Plymouth, England, P&G's goal is to expand to the rest of the U.K. plus Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the U.S. in October, then to the rest of Europe and Japan in 2001. October is the earliest the brand is likely to expand, a spokesman said.
Ad plans weren't disclosed, though the test market is backed by TV, print, interactive and direct mail from Grey Advertising, London.
Color protection has long been part of the positioning for P&G's Cheer detergent and, in recent years, its Downy Care fabric softener. Vibrant is P&G's first stand-alone color-protection product.
Vibrant represents the latest move by P&G to extend its laundry detergent prowess into new fabric-care categories, following the rollouts of Febreze fabric deodorizer and Dryel home dry-cleaning kits.
At P&G's annual shareholders meeting last week, Chairman-CEO Durk Jager said Swiffer, launched in July, has gotten off to a faster start than the other new brands, including Febreze, which logged more than $250 million in U.S. retail sales its first year.
Swiffer made it to U.S. stores only two weeks before rival S.C. Johnson & Son's Pledge Grab-It. But retailers said purchases of Swiffer mops and replacement cloths have been stronger than for Pledge, driven in part by in-store demonstrations that reached a majority of supermarkets in the U.S.
Conversely, fat substitute Olean has been a disappointment, Mr. Jager said, reaching only 30% to 40% of anticipated sales so far.
But he added that applications to new snack foods or petitioning the Food & Drug Administration for new-product applications could yet boost results.
NEW TWIST IN BEVERAGES
NutriDelight marks a new twist on a growing interest by P&G in functional foods, which has included repositioning Metamucil as a dietary supplement and planning a U.S. rollout early next year of Eclipse Inner G, another Sunny Delight spinoff fortified with gingko, ginseng and green tea.
Though most nutraceutical products-such as Unilever's Take Control and Johnson & Johnson's Benecol cholesterol-lowering spreads and salad dressings-have aimed at developed countries, NutriDelight aims at malnutrition, primarily in developing countries.
TV advertising from Saatchi & Saatchi, Manila positions NutriDelight as helping kids grow taller, stronger and smarter.
P&G developed a powdered version to make NutriDelight more affordable than soft drinks and will donate a portion of profits-expected to exceed $1 million-to nutrition education.
Spurring NutriDelight were requests to the marketer from UNI-CEF and Cornell University to use its renowned technology to combat micronutrient deficiency, P&G said.
The Philippines was chosen because of its ongoing campaign to combat the deficiencies, but Mr. Jager said P&G likely will expand the product globally and develop others aimed at child nutrition.
"It's very likely the initiative with NutriDelight will spin off into other initiatives in this area," he told shareholders.
Though P&G holds more patents for nutrient-delivery methods and cholesterol-lowering applications than its global rivals, the company has been reluctant to move into functional foods until recently.
One problem is that "every country treats the regulation issues differently," Mr. Jager said, which doesn't mesh with P&G's goal of developing global brands.
P&G's move into nutraceuticals is a natural, however, given its technology assets, said William Steele, analyst with Bank of America Securities. He said P&G also has examined nutritional supplement makers for possible acquisitions.
Even P&G's recent acquisition of Recovery Engineering's Pur water filtration brand could play into nutraceutical ventures.
"What we want to do is modify water: to put things in it, take things out or adapt the way it's delivered," Mr. Jager said. "When you look at P&G in that light, the Recovery Engineering acquisition makes even more sense."
Some water-filtration products in Japan already are marketed on the basis of adding nutrients to water. And among trademarks recently sought by P&G is one for Calcio, described as a calcium-fortified water brand.
The marketer also has moved to trademark the names Spire and Kupa as two other