Kraft Bets Consumers Will Hunger for Bacteria
Hold the Metamucil: Kraft Foods wants to help America get more regular.
The food giant appears to be launching an entirely new marketing platform under the LiveActive name of probiotic (good bacteria to battle irregularity) and prebiotics (nondigestible fibers that stimulate good bacteria in the colon).
Kraft launched its first products last month with cottage cheese under its Breakstone's and Knudsen labels and in June will add Kraft natural cheeses and a line of cottage cheeses with fruit. But its ambitions look a lot bigger: Based on trademark patents, LiveActive could potentially encompass digestive-health products in categories including cereals, snack foods, salad dressings and beverages.
Kraft is acting on consumer findings that show three-quarters of Americans find it challenging to incorporate more fiber into their diet and would like to try new food products that offer digestive health benefits.
"We see that there is an interest and a need in supporting digestive health," said Kraft spokesman Basil Maglaris, who noted the launch of LiveActive is "well aligned with Kraft's growth strategy to make products more relevant to consumers."
Larger digestive movement
Kraft is not alone in its thinking that digestive health is the next holy grail. According to Datamonitor's Productscan Online, there were 102 new probiotic/prebiotic food and beverage launches in 2006, compared to just 40 items in 2005. And with 51 probiotic/prebiotic launches already this year, "it appears that 2007 will be a breakthrough year for new probiotic and prebiotic products," said Tom Vierhile, director of Productscan Online.
Yet it's hard to tell how big a market it could become. Nutrition Business Journal pegged U.S. consumer sales of probiotic supplements at $243 million in 2005, but there is no measurement or growth forecast as yet for foods and beverages that contain probiotics.
Dannon has been most active in the space to date, with successful entries including Activia and Dannon Danimals XL Drinkable Yogurt with the probiotic culture LGG, and General Mills has recently entered the fray with its Yoplait Yo-Plus cultured dairy drink. Outside of dairy products, Kellogg Co.-owned Kashi boasts that its Kashi Vive Probiotic Digestive Wellness Cereal is the "only shelf-stable probiotic food on the market." If Kraft has its way, though, that won't long be true. Mr. Maglaris declined to speculate on the company's future plans with LiveActive.
Big problem, little information
One thing is for sure: If Kraft hopes to build a big business with LiveActive, it has to give consumers more information. Though Kraft research shows that 60 million to 70 million Americans suffer from some sort of digestive health issue, it also shows that 78% of them are unfamiliar with the term probiotic. "There's a big gap between awareness and what consumers' needs are," Mr. Maglaris said.
Kraft's integrated marketing campaign from DraftFCB, Chicago, which is focusing initially on cottage cheese this spring, will help educate consumers with print and TV efforts boasting, "LiveActive helps regulate with prebiotic fiber" and is a "great-tasting way to help keep your digestive system healthy, with all the fiber and none of the added sugar of yogurt." Websites for Breakstone's and Kundsen also will offer detailed information on digestive health.
A line of probiotic natural cheeses will launch in June featuring single-serving sticks of cheddar, mozzarella, and a Colby-and-Monterey-Jack blend. Advertising for the natural cheeses is expected later this summer.