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In 1992, Quaker Oats Co. really needed a new-product hit.

After the national oat-bran craze faded, oatmeal sales were flat; Gatorade was under assault; pet-food sales were in the dumps; and several new-product initiatives like Quaker OvenStuffs frozen sandwiches were disappointments.

So the marketer looked to its strengths. It leveraged the equity of its Quaker Man trademark to create Quaker Toasted Oatmeal, a cold cereal that's proved the company's most successful new brand in several years, increasing its share of the cereal category a full point.

"The original vision was to deliver all the positive things about Quaker Oats in a cold cereal," says Cindy Nagle, 41, who as brand manager led the development team. "Taste was the No. 1 priority, but then the product had to be consistent with the benefits of Quaker Oats-meaning sound nutrition, wholesome goodness."

The breakfast division used the opportunity to test a new approach to product development, organizing a multidisciplinary team of eight staffers. Product scientists and plant managers were exposed to marketing dilemmas, while marketing professionals wrestled with ingredient costs.

"The approach made this a better product," Ms. Nagle says. "We were all aligned against one goal: what motivated the consumer."

Introduced into half the country in early 1993, Quaker Toasted Oatmeal was supported by $1.50-off coupons and Wilford Brimley as spokesman in advertising from Jordan, McGrath, Case & Taylor, New York. The brand had sales of $91 million for the year ended April 24, according to Information Resources Inc.

"We hadn't had a cereal success since Quaker Oat Squares [in 1987]," says Ms. Nagle, promoted last fall to product group manager. "Expectations for this product were very high, but it delivered ... and it's reinforced our commitment to the category."

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