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A brand battle is shaping up in pickles, as Oscar Mayer Foods' Claussen and rival Vlasic, from Campbell Soup Co., prepare to spend an estimated $24 million combined in ads to introduce competing new products.

Claussen Super Slices and Vlasic Super Stackers are designed to put some zest into a category where innovation is minimal. It is hoped the new shapes of pickles will increase consumer interest.

Claussen Super Slices will be rolled out in May as oversize, round pickles cut to blanket a hamburger. The refrigerated product was developed after research showed consumers were unhappy with current pickle shapes.


"When we talked to consumers, they complained that pickles are limp and fall off their burgers when they bite into them," said Mary Boeding, business director. "We thought our crunch could bring a lot to the party."

Claussen claims there's a dilly of a market for Super Slices, considering that 2.8 billion hamburgers were consumed at home in the U.S. last year, with 31% of those eaten in summer.

While the company won't discuss marketing spending, it's believed Claussen will devote at least $8 million to the launch.

Advertising for Super Slices includes TV from J. Walter Thompson USA, Chicago, breaking May 12, plus print ads and spot radio.

The TV campaign features a faux weather report showing a purported "cold snap" hitting the country as small pickles on a hamburger are blown away and replaced by Super Slices. The tagline: "If it's burger size crunch you crave, you're ready for the cold snap."

Print ads show three regular-size pickles on a small burger with the caption: "Like a little more pickle on that?" In the foreground is a large burger with a Super Slice and the copy, "You're ready for new Claussen Super Slices."

Vlasic is promising it will double ad spending to an estimated $16 million to back its new Super Stackers. The shelf-stable line is touted as having a "bigger, bolder taste" than regular Vlasic pickles, along with a longer, thicker slice.

The campaign, set for an Aug. 1 start, includes TV spots and free-standing inserts via Foote, Cone & Belding, New York.


Theme of the advertising: "Bigger taste, bigger crunch to make your sandwich taste better."

In the past, changing the shapes of pickles and adding new sizes have helped the business.

"Before sandwich-style pickles, the category was declining every year," noted Ms. Boeding.

Claussen's Sandwich Slices, introduced in 1995, added $29.3 million to the base brand's sales of $90.2 million for the 52 weeks ended March 2, according to Information Resources Inc. Sales of Claussen's flagship product were down 7.9% during that time while Sandwich Slices jumped 73.3%.

Claussen currently holds about 80% of the $150.2 million refrigerated pickle category, IRI said. Vlasic, which markets mainly shelf-stable lines, had only $10.5 million in the refrigerated segment, regular Vlasic and Vlasic Deli Stackers lines.

Vlasic, meanwhile, leads the $592.9 million shelf-stable pickle category. For the 52 weeks ended March 2, Vlasic held 42.7% of the segment, with sales of $253.4 million. That sales figure was up 3.3% from the previous-year period.

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