Chocolate gets boost

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Premium chocolatiers are boosting marketing efforts to drive everyday sales among America's increasing number of cocoa connoisseurs. Whether through increased distribution to mass outlets or additional initiatives in upscale locales, the premium chocolate sector, a category set to spend more than $30 million in advertising, is heating up.

Lindt & Sprungli USA is on an aggressive five-year path to grow sales in the U.S., a market previously undermarketed by its Swiss parent. As part of that initiative, Lindt has aggressively expanded openings of its own retail outlets as well as plunged into mass outlets where few premium chocolates have dared to tread. To support that expansion, Lindt plans to launch an estimated $4 million campaign for its Lindor Truffle line this October that includes a first-ever TV buy. In addition, Lindt has sanctioned first-time advertising efforts for its Ghirardelli Chocolate Co. unit, acquired in 1998 to boost the foreign marketer's U.S. portfolio.

room for growth

"Chocolate consumption in the U.S. is not quite at the levels of our European counterparts, but there is every indication that there's room for significant growth in the premium category overall," said Sheri Baron, president of Interpublic Group of Cos.' Gotham, New York, which was hired last year to spearhead efforts for Lindt. Gotham broke a $1 million print campaign for Lindor Truffles last year featuring the theme, "Do you dream in chocolate?" and will extend the effort this fall with an expanded print buy and the addition, initially, of spot TV. The intention, Ms. Baron said, is to "expand [Lindor's] TV presence as business warrants it" and to "increase media expenditures on the brand every year."

Ghirardelli is currently reviewing agencies for a roughly $3 million initiative slated for 2003. Like its parent company, the specialty chocolate company has recently expanded distribution beyond confectioner's stores to grocery, drugstores and mass outlets including Target and Walgreens.

"The primary complaint [from consumers] is that they can't find our product," said Tinka Gordon, VP-marketing, Ghirardelli. "Increasing availability will help encourage people to buy premium chocolate on a more frequent basis," she said.

Campbell Soup Co.'s Godiva Chocolatier is also making a push to drive purchase frequency through a slew of marketing initiatives that transition the brand from a product to a lifestyle, said VP-Marketing Michael Simon.

The effort, "a combination of renovation and innovation" both at key holiday times and outside seasonal windows, Mr. Simon said, includes new products, the continuation of emotionally driven print ads and new packaging-the first in nearly a decade for the luxury marketer. Last year, Godiva spent $6.2 million on measured media promoting the brand, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.

A new Nut and Chocolate Collection, set to debut in August, will be supported with a campaign in October from Margeotes/Fertitta & Partners, New York. The campaign speaks to Godiva's role as a much-deserved self-indulgent treat. The full-page ads feature a woman in a museum eating a Godiva chocolate above the caption, "Who says quality time has to be spent with someone else?" while an adjacent ad touts the particulars of the new whole-nut based line. Godiva will also introduce a variety of Belgian Ganache chocolates.

extended seasons

Ferrero USA is likewise ramping up to "extend the seasons" of premium chocolate consumption for its Ferrero Rocher chocolates, according to Brad Maslan, director of marketing for the U.S. division of the Italian chocolate company. "There is definitely an everyday opportunity for our brand, especially with the trend toward cocooning and entertaining on a more informal basis," Mr. Maslan said.

Although Ferrero has been using traditional print and TV to support its chocolates since its national launch in the U.S. five years ago, this year it is making a stronger push to expand distribution and display activity in the mainstream outlets where it is sold. In addition to a fall display unit offered to retailers to tout its three-packs, Ferrero will place free coupons for the three-packs in special inserts in October magazines. In 2001, the company spent $17.5 million on measured media for Rocher, according to CMR.

Nestle USA is also making a push on the premium side with increased efforts for its imported Italian Perugina line and the introduction this August of a line of boxed premium chocolates under the Nestle International Collection banner.

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