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Ginny Whitaker spent part of last month handing out samples of Haagen-Dazs frozen yogurt bars to fitness mavens.

"It's amazing; the most unlikely people-healthy, obviously into fitness and working out several times a week-come up to you and confess they can't keep a box of these bars in their houses, that they eat two or three of them at a time," says Ms. Whitaker, laughing.

What's made the Haagen-Dazs frozen yogurt bars appealing to fitness junkies also has made them a hit among other consumers. The bars, each coated in a rich but fat-free sorbet, have 90 to 100 calories each and only 1 gram of fat.

They have helped Haagen-Dazs Co. achieve what many thought impossible: Create a low-fat product consistent with Haagen-Dazs' indulgent image.

Ms. Whitaker, marketing manager of the line, says that in tests U.S. consumers instantly connected with the sorbet coatings, imported from Haagen-Dazs' European markets, where sorbets are more intense and tangy than the icy sorbets typical in the U.S.

Last summer, Haagen-Dazs mounted a full-court press for the original three varieties of the frozen yogurt treats, supported by print ads from BBDO Worldwide, New York. Halfway through the season, Ms. Whitaker experienced her "marketing manager's nightmare": Demand was so high plants couldn't keep up, and supplies had to be rationed.

For the 1994 summer season, Haagen-Dazs added extra production capacity. It also added two new flavors, Tropical Orange Passion and peach, and moved marketing dollars into consumer promotion-the more than 500,000 samples passed out this spring at 500 health clubs around the country.

The real testimony to the yogurt bars' success: The raspberry sorbet-coated bar has become Haagen-Dazs' best-selling frozen novelty, even surpassing the classic vanilla ice cream bar coated with chocolate and nuts.

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