General Mills adds Disney characters to fruit snacks line

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General Mills is leveraging the power of the Disney brand to build its Betty Crocker fruit snacks.

As part of a two-year deal with Walt Disney Co., General Mills will introduce Winnie the Pooh Fruit Snacks, Mickey Mouse Fruity Peel-Outs and Disney's Princess Rolls as permanent items in June. The deal also includes the rights for General Mills to launch two limited-time items per year tied to Disney's biggest movie releases -- the first among them Dinosaur Movie Rolls, which kick off in time for "Dinosaurs" debut May 19 (see Culture Pop, Page 74).

General Mills will use TV ads, from Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, to promote the new Disney-theme items beginning in July. Creative features Disney icon Mickey Mouse to position the snacks to kids as a "ticket into Mickey's world," said Tiffany West, marketing assistant.

"The power of Disney is huge because it has universal appeal and universal recognition," she said.


The Mickey Mouse Fruity Peel-Outs, targeted to kids ages 8 to 10, feature peel-out shapes of Mickey, Minnie, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Pluto and Goofy, while Winnie the Pooh features pieces shaped like Pooh and his friends Tigger, Eeyore and the gang to appeal to younger boys and girls. The Princess Rolls, the first-ever Betty Crocker Fruit Snack targeted specifically to girls, builds on Disney's new "Princess" brand, which brings together Cinderella, Snow White, "Sleeping Beauty's" Princess Aurora, "Beauty & the Beast's" Belle and "Aladdin's" Jasmine for the first time. The Princess snacks will feature one princess on each pouch, and the backing paper will feature games inviting girls to "Be a princess."

Disney plans to extend the Princess brand beyond its own stores this summer.


Licensed product introductions, including the November launch of Pokemon Rolls (AA, Oct. 4), have been an integral part of General Mills' strategy to build its fruit snacks business. The snacks based on the cult phenomenon inspired by the Nintendo videogame have already grown to $22 million in sales. Such tie-ins to widely recognizable properties also allow the marketer to spend less on media: Although media expenditures for the Betty Crocker Fruit Snacks brand totaled $6.6 million in 1998, spending for the brands last year fell to $26,000, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

General Mills is the leader in the $469 million fruit rolls, bars and snacks category, with sales for its Betty Crocker brand up 14.6% to $272 million for the 52 weeks ended March 26, according to IRI. Farley's fruit snacks, purchased by Nabisco in September as part of its acquisition of Favorite Brands International, ranks second, with sales up 7.8% to $99 million. Farley's brands include licensed products based on "Star Wars" and "Rugrats."

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