Papadellis' tiered strategy results in VP slot at Welch

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It's no wonder Randy Papadellis recently was promoted to senior VP at Welch Foods and charged with leading the company's marketing into the next century.

During Mr. Papadellis' five-year tenure as VP-marketing at Welch, the leading grape juice and jelly producer has seen sales of its shelf-stable juices double and overall sales grow from $424 million to $631 million.

So what is his secret? A three-tiered strategy that has included practically quadrupling ad spending, working with the medical community to back up health and nutrition claims for products and offering a raft of new products.

`GREAT BRAND'

"The key is that Welch's is a great brand name, and that allows us to be very aggressive from a new-product standpoint," Mr. Papadellis said.

The strategy did not appear out of nowhere. Armed with an MBA from Cornell University in 1981, Mr. Papadellis, 42, entered the marketing world at snack behemoth Frito-Lay, moved on to become VP-marketing for Cadbury Beverages North America and then worked as a consultant for Marketing Corp. of America.

When Mr. Papadellis joined Welch's in 1994, the marketer was spending a mere $4 million a year on advertising. Now, in the fiscal year that began in September, the marketer has pledged to spend $23 million -- most of it on network TV spots featuring popular spokeschild Emily Young, who has been seen backing Welch's Juice Makers concentrates and shelf-stable juices since 1997

The campaign, from Jordan McGrath Case & Partners/Euro RSCG, New York, has been "really successful," according to Mr. Papadellis, and a search for a successor to Ms. Young is set for next year.

Print and radio efforts have focused mainly on health and nutrition findings that stem from Welch's medical research into the benefits of grape juice.

Big news for Welch's also has come from product introductions.

"Thirty percent of our sales volume today comes from products introduced in the last five years," Mr. Papadellis said.

To continue that momentum, Welch's is in the process of launching a line of refrigerated juice cocktails to join its existing frozen and shelf-stable varieties.

Licensing also has provided a way for Welch's to move into new, high-growth sections of the store, he said. "As the Welch's brand name has evolved, it's more of a fruit brand vs. a grape brand, and that allows us to get in to other fruit-based categories."

EXTENSION OF NAME

Welch's just this summer entered the fast-growing branded produce arena with fresh grapes through a partnership with produce company C.H. Robinson Worldwide in 15% of the U.S. and will expand the program significantly this spring. The marketer also entered the candy arena with co-branded Peanut Butter & Jelly Cups from Russell Stover Candies.

And, the piece de resistance: Welch's is jumping on the Pokemon bandwagon in January, offering 10-ounce collectible tumblers of jam and jelly featuring the ubiquitous characters.

"We're always looking for ways to expand," Mr. Papadellis said.

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