Stonyfield Farm serves first national campaign

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Meteoric growth and the mainstreaming of natural food products have prompted top natural yogurt marketer Stonyfield Farm to begin advertising nationally for the first time.

In the second quarter, Stonyfield is likely to roll national with an overall brand campaign as well as product-specific ads for new products. The marketer used major media for the first time late in 1999, to promote the launch of its newest refrigerated yogurt line, Yo Baby.

Having relied in the past solely on guerrilla marketing to promote its all-natural and organic yogurt lines, Stonyfield has been testing advertising in San Francisco and New England markets since last spring, an effort budgeted at more than $1 million.

RAPID SUCCESS

"The natural and organic products industry, not unlike dot-coms, is enjoying sudden rapid success and, although we've been able to build our brand with guerrilla marketing, we need to be prepared for a much bigger game," said Gary Hirschberg, president-CEO. "We're now on the radar screen of the biggest competitors and retail chains, and we need to expand our toolbox."

The 16-year-old company has grown substantially throughout the '90s and become the leading yogurt brand in natural food stores. With a lineup that includes 80 refrigerated and frozen yogurt products, the company said it has seen a 36% rise in sales just in the past year.

Although only distributed in 27% of mainstream groceries, Stonyfield ranked fourth -- behind General Mills' Yoplait, Dannon Co.'s Dannon and Kraft Foods' Breyers -- with sales of $51.2 million for the year ended Nov. 7, according to Information Resources Inc. Stonyfield has tripled its production capacity and plans to expand aggressively beyond its mainly Northeast markets in 2000, Mr. Hirschberg said.

Stonyfield in November made its first foray into advertising with a print ad in Parenting and Healthy Kids for Yo Baby, the first yogurt on the market for babies and toddlers. Yo Baby also is Stonyfield's first product to be introducing nationally in supermarkets, due to retailer demand.

The Yo Baby ad, from Lynch Jarvis Jones, Minneapolis, features a little girl covered in yogurt alongside the tag, "The most wholesome baby food she'll ever wear."

Stonyfield decided to use targeted advertising for Yo Baby because "we've seen the organic baby food market exploding, but those needs were not being met in the yogurt segment," said Karen Martinsen Fleming, VP-marketing.

Like the print push for Yo Baby, the three TV spots and four outdoor ads that Lynch created for Stonyfield's overall brand advertising test aim to communicate the brand's benefits with a sense of humor, Ms. Fleming said.

One billboard features a cup of Stonyfield yogurt with a padlock and the tagline, "Nothing artificial allowed." Another shows a cup with wings and a halo accompanied by the tagline, "Only the purest milk will do." And a TV spot touts the six active live cultures the yogurts contain by featuring an animated cup of yogurt singing opera. All carry the general brand tagline, "Yogurt made better."

TESTING MEDIA MIX

Stonyfield is testing various mixes of TV, radio and outdoor in its test markets and will make a decision on specific media plans within the next few months, Ms. Fleming said.

Following up on the success of its kids yogurt line, Planet Protectors, and the early success of Yo Baby, Stonyfield is planning to launch four new product lines next year, according to Mr. Hirschberg. New products will likely receive dedicated advertising above and beyond the general brand campaign, he said.

Stonyfield is also extending its guerrilla marketing, deploying "Moo Crews" to hand out samples of yogurt to roughly 60,000 people a week in San Francisco.

The refrigerated yogurt category grew 5.5%, to $1.8 billion, for the 52 weeks ended Nov. 7, with sales for leader General Mills up 22.2% to $603 million, Dannon down 4.8% to $542 million and Kraft up 0.9% to $177.8 million.

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