SNAPPLE SALES SNAP UPWARD;NEW ADVERTISING, PROMOTION GIVE LIFT TO QUAKER'S STRUGGLING BRAND

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Snapple sales have been strong through the first five months of 1996, showing promise of a turnaround for the slumping Quaker Oats Co. brand.

Quaker said in its first-quarter report last month that sales of the brand, which declined 9% in '95 to $610 million, rose 11% in the year's first three months on a volume gain of 7%. That was before the April 1 launch of new advertising from Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, New York, and an under-the-cap sweepstakes promotion.

Quaker won't release April and May sales figures, but distributors and sales managers said they have been surging.

`KICKING BUTT'

"We're kicking butt," said Virgil Scott, a Quaker sales manager in Atlanta.

"We're pretty pleased with early '96 results, but it's still very early," said a Quaker spokesman.

With the start of new advertising and a consumer promotion, strong April sales were expected as retailers stocked up. How well the products sell through, as measured by scanner data, will be the real proof of success.

Quaker wouldn't release current scanner data. At its annual meeting earlier this month, Quaker Chairman-CEO William Smithburg said Snapple owns about 25% of the single-serve tea market and about 15% of the single-serve juice-drink market.

Quaker has rolled out several new flavors of Snapple this spring, as well as new packaging. New 64-ounce plastic bottles and 12-packs of 16-ounce bottles introduced in highly developed markets should help the brand's supermarket sales.

DISTRIBUTION WOES SUBSIDE

Distribution problems have largely been fixed, Quaker said. Those hitches occurred after Quaker acquired the brand in late 1994 and tried to meld Snapple's network of independent bottlers with its Gatorade network.

A new set of distribution managers and a distributor advisory council have helped promote consistency and teamwork, and reorganized shelves in 120,000 outlets has improved brand visibility.

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