Masterfoods plots candy binge

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showing itself to be an increasingly aggressive innovator, Masterfoods is planning a $38 million chocolate-bar launch as it ramps up efforts to dominate the candy aisle.

The family-owned food marketer plans the major launch into the chocolate-bar segment, dominated by rivals Hershey's and Nestle Crunch, this August. The $38 million-plus TV blitz will support the introduction of M-Azing, plain- and peanut butter-M&M-embedded chocolate bars. Masterfoods will also go head to head with the likes of Hershey's Bubble Yum and Cadbury Adams' Bubblicious with the launch in July of Skittles Bubble Gum.

Looking at the marketplace both inside and outside the candy aisle for growth opportunities has led Masterfoods to determine how it might "take its existing successes and translate them into new formats," according to spokesman Jeffrey Moran. Since October of 2003, Masterfoods has launched its first energy bar, Snickers Marathon; a hydrating mint brand, Aquadrops; and now will extend into two areas in which it has not had a presence.

One Midwest retail executive applauded Masterfoods' innovation in the standard bar segment, an area that hasn't seen much in the way of new products lately, and said also that going into gum for Skittles "makes a lot of sense." While the mint and gum categories have become overcrowded recently with entries such as breath strips and a surge of breath-freshening tablet-gum brands, she said, Masterfoods is "pretty savvy when it comes to consumer demand. If they want to get incremental distribution, it's crucial that they play in gum and mints, which are huge categories for the front of the store."

personality of the bar

The launches follow a recent media consolidation with Publicis Groupe's Starcom MediaVest Group, intended to help Masterfoods forge integrated-marketing partnerships that help it reach out to consumers in new and different ways.

Advertising for M-Azing, mostly TV from Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, New York, will target 12-to-18-year-olds with creative that strays from typically product-focused chocolate-bar advertising to reflect the personality of the bar. The humorous spots will look at the notion of being a young adult from the eyes of an adult desperately trying to be cool around them, Mr. Moran said.

Viral marketing will be important to the launch as it will for Skittles Bubble Gum, which will look to reach teenagers mainly via online- and buzz-marketing efforts. Omnicom Group's TBWA/ Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., will handle the Skittles Gum launch.

Meanwhile, Masterfoods last September began advertising for its decadent Dove Promises brand after a decade-long hiatus and recently repackaged and brightened colors for its iconic M&M's brand, now being offered in packages designed specifically for car cup holders.

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