SAMPLING, ADS MAY BE KEY FOR PRODUCTS USING OLESTRA

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Marketers considering Procter & Gamble Co.'s olestra fat substitute in foods should plan on heavy sampling and advertising to promote their products.

That's what researchers Kane Bortree & Associates found in a focus group study on the use of the ingredient, now being marketed to food companies as Olean.

President Chet Kane said the study isolated two consumer groups-"determined dieters" and "heavy snackers"-most likely to embrace olestra despite required health warnings about side effects.

The two "are more likely to dismiss warnings," he said.

If marketed properly-and, if taste is sufficiently good-olestra-based food products could also appeal to other consumer groups, including what Kane Bortree called "guilty bingers" and "moderators," the latter defined as people who already do a good job in controlling how much they snack.

"The products could appeal to a guilty binger or moderator as it becomes more acceptable," Mr. Kane said. "It will depend on the taste and the amount of advertising."

The consultant also counsels marketers using olestra to take the high road with creative, stressing the fun and taste of the product rather than harping on health attributes.

On the downside, there are groups-defined by the company as "naturalists" and "taste purists"-who simply won't ever be attracted to olestra products.

"Olestra won't be popular to everyone," Mr. Kane said.

Even though diet soft drinks are now a mainstream product, noted Carol Davies, managing partner of Kane Bortree, only about 30% of the population drinks them consistently.

Kane Bortree has one caveat for marketers looking at using olestra. Namely, that if a similar fat reduction can be achieved through natural means, consumers will shun olestra for what is naturally produced. "That's a much more acceptable proposition," Mr. Kane said.

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