During a two-year acquisition spree in what used to be one of the supermarket's most fragmented categories, Nestle USA and Unilever scooped up so many major brands that they now control one-third of the $1.5 billion market and have dramatically changed the frozen novelty landscape.
With Kraft General Foods' decision to pull its Jell-O and Crystal Light brands out of the freezer case, what has emerged is a head-to-head battle here between two companies used to competing on European soil.
Nestle and Unilever have alternated acquisitions; in one of the most ironic twists, Nestle acquired marketing rights to Disney brand frozen treats, formerly held by Unilever. Nestle is running trade ads teasing Unilever with the tagline, "When it comes to novelties, no other company is in the same category as Nestle."
Although new-product activity and advertising were put on ice during the acquisition frenzy, the rivalry has brought forth some good news. The rebound started last summer, when ad spending in the frozen novelty category jumped to $33 million, still small but up almost 50% from 1992, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Now, for summer '94, Nestle and Unilever have alternated acquisitions; in one of the most ironic twists, Nestle acquired marketing rights to Disney brand frozen treats, formerly held by Unilever. Nestle is running trade ads teasing Unilever with the tagline, "When it comes to novelties, no other company is in the same category as Nestle."
While new-product activity and advertising were put on ice during the acquisition frenzy, the rivalry has brought forth some good news. The rebound started last summer, when ad spending in the frozen novelty category jumped to $33 million, still small but up almost 50% from 1992, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Now, for summer '94, Nestle and Unilever are relaunching familiar brand names they've acquired, sprucing up existing brands and committing to significant marketing initiatives.
"What you've got is some big players very committed to the segment, so the market's going to be even more competitive now," said Tom Marchese, group product manager for Nestle Ice Cream Co.
Unilever's newly named Good Humor-Breyers unit, the No. 1 marketer with a 17% share, is promising more than $18 million in ad support for its three main lines: Good Humor Classics, Klondike bars and Viennetta ice cream cake.
Nestle, No. 2 with 14.4% of the market, is restaging many of the brands it produces and licenses-including Dole fruit and juice bars, and the Disney treats line.
"As the process of merging all their new brands smooths out, you'll see Nestle and Unilever get back to a focus on new products," said Charles O'Brien, president of rival Frozfruit, a California-based marketer of fruit-and-juice bars. "Then you'll see some new and interesting things driving growth."
Specifically, here's what's hot in the freezer case:
Reduced-fat products: Haagen-Dazs Co. couldn't keep store shelves supplied with enough 100-calorie frozen yogurt bars last year and ended up rationing them. This year, it's adding three flavors-strawberry daquiri, pina colada and tropical orange passion, each made from frozen yogurt enveloped in tangy, European-style sorbet. BBDO Worldwide, New York, handles advertising for Haagen-Dazs.
Nestle is introducing a Nestle Crunch bar with no added sugar and 50% less fat than the regular product. Weight Watchers Food Co. is adding Arctic D'Lites, a low-fat ice cream-and-chocolate bar; Ally & Gargano, New York, is agency. Even Good Humor-Breyers' Creamsicle gets a frozen yogurt version this year.
"Five or six years ago, the focus of everything was calories, but fat is clearly the latest fad," Frozfruit's Mr. O'Brien said.
Juice bars: The focus on fat reduction helped sales of juice bars boom 25% last year. Nestle has restaged Dole Fruit'n Juice bars, and added Dole juice pops-20 cal ories each with no added sugar. "Juice bars really exploded in the past year," Nestle's Mr. Marchese said.
Tie-ins for marketing leverage: Minute Maid Fruit Juicees, from Good Humor- Breyers, and a new Pebbles Flintstones Push-Up from Nes tle-just in time for the Universal Pic tures' summer flick- are only the start.
Nestle USA's big gest 1994 promotion, stretching across the company's candy, beverage and ice cream brands, is a multicategory tie-in to Walt Disney Co.'s summer "The Lion King" movie. The promotion, fruit of Nestle's partnership with Disney, involves a multimillion-dollar TV campaign plus a five-page July 10 free standing insert. It will roll out a special Lion King ice cream cone as part of its restaged Disney Cool Creations novelties line.
Though Fahlgren, Columbus, Ohio, is the agency for Nestle Ice Cream Co., the "Lion King" advertising was produced by another Nestle agency, Dailey & Associates, Los Angeles. The budget for the promotion was undisclosed.
Favorites with modern twists: Good Humor-Breyers is adding several items in its Good Humor Classics line, including a chocolate chip cookie sandwich. The Classics line will be backed by a $5.5 million national TV campaign, featuring new spots from McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York.
Meanwhile, Good Humor-Breyers will spruce up its Popsicle line with multicolor Firecracker pops and rocket-shape Juice Jets.
A little bit of indulgence: In its 15th year, Frozfruit is brewing a new cappuccino bar; Frozfruit doesn't plan any advertising and has no agency of record.
Nestle is relaunching its Bon Bons bite-size treats with a "richer, creamier" recipe.
And Klondike, acquired by Unilever last year, will add Klondike Gold, a superpremium version of its signature square ice cream treat, and Klondike Krunch, the first Klondike on a stick. Using the "What would you do for a Klondike bar?" tagline, new spots from McCann will get a $5 million media budget.
13.10Disney's "The Lion King" inspires Nestle; Unilever backs Klondike.