Soaring soy sales spur new product, national ad effort

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Sales of soy products in mainstream grocery stores have exploded, and two leading marketers in this burgeoning category have strategies planned to capture even more new customers.

Soy beverage sales now exceed $161 million annually, with a larger percentage of sales coming from mainstream grocery rather than from natural food outlets.

Hain Celestial Group, already in mainstream supermarkets with its Westsoy soy beverages, will launch a national ad campaign early next year as the first step in a large-scale effort to broaden the reach of its leading brand.

White Wave, meanwhile, plans to relaunch an improved version of its Silk Dairyless Soy "yogurt" line next week under a new name, Silk Cultured Soy.

The estimated $2 million print campaign for Hain's Westsoy, set to break in January or February issues of magazines including People, Martha Stewart Living and Self, follows a limited run of ads in niche titles including Natural Health and Vegetarian Times over the last year.

SALES SURGE

The campaign is a direct response to the exceptional growth of soy beverage sales in grocery stores, where refrigerated soy milk grew more than 500% and shelf-stable varieties grew 75% for the year ended in March, according to Elyse Kops, associate brand manager of natural foods at Hain.

That growth has sparked increased competition in the category from major marketers such as Bestfoods (AA, June 26) and an influx of ad spending, including a $20 million effort for its new Nutrablend and a $15 million effort for White Wave's Silk (AA, May 8).

"Our spending is small in terms of what our competition is doing, but we're getting our feet wet, and the following year we're going to put a huge effort against Westsoy," Ms. Kops said.

TAGLINE LIKELY TO STAY

Hain's new campaign will likely maintain the existing tagline, "Westsoy knows soy best," although Hain currently is seeking a new agency to replace incumbent Hard Hats, New York. The effort will focus on Hain's Westsoy shelf-stable soymilk as well as its new refrigerated Westsoy Plus. The ads probably also will tout Westsoy's line of shelf-stable, single-serve entries such as chai, coffee, juice bar and rice drink varieties.

White Wave's relaunch of its "yogurt" line is said to feature live cultures and a better taste. The 11-flavor line of Silk Cultured Soy will launch in natural foods stores, and ads will proclaim the product's improvements in niche magazines targeted to those shoppers. However, White Wave expects that the soy "yogurt," like its Silk soy milk, soon will be embraced by mainstream retailers and consumers.

FROM NONE TO 14,000

Silk soy milk is now on the shelves in 14,000 conventional grocery stores, up from none 18 months ago. With the support of a recently launched campaign from Carmichael Lynch Spong, Minneapolis, the brand is building a base of loyal mainstream consumers and may pull people in to buy Silk Cultured Soy, said James Terman, VP-pictures and words for White Wave.

"The yogurt is an offering for people who are lactose-intolerant, want to get calcium without animal protein or want more soy protein," Mr. Terman said. And, just as soy milk is easy to incorporate into consumers' diets, the Cultured Soy, packaged just like yogurt, is an easy substitute for current yogurt users.

White Wave will also do extensive sampling for Cultured Soy because, Mr. Terman said, "the biggest barrier to sales is taste."

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