Mints go on a roll with new ad effort

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Nabisco Foods Co. is wagering nearly $15 million that its reformulated Breath Savers will be effective at fighting bad breath and generating big business.

This October, Nabisco will break a $4 million print and radio effort touting enhancements in its traditional Breath Savers mints. The advertising is expected to play up the new patented ingredient Neutrazin, designed to neutralize bad breath instead of just masking it.

A larger-scale marketing campaign, including a $10 million TV component, will follow in January. The 2001 effort will also reprise the Longest Kiss promotional event that garnered great consumer interest last year, said Tony Tyree, director of marketing for breath freshening at Nabisco.

FCB Worldwide, New York, handles Breath Savers advertising. Breath Savers has suffered as the $360 million breath freshener category has shifted to the intense mints segment. Nabisco has played to the powerful-punch mint trend with extensions such as Cool Blast and Ice Breaker; but its Breath Savers reformulation is an attempt to reinvigorate stale sales for the base brand. Breath Savers' sales for the base brand fell 10.8% to $61 million for the 52 weeks ended June 18, per Information Resources Inc. data. The growing Cool Blast and Ice Breakers varieties posted $10 million in sales for the period.


Meanwhile, sales for Kraft Foods' Altoids brand -- which touts itself as a "curiously strong" mint -- grew 52.1% to $108 million. (Ironically, Altoids and Breath Savers are soon likely to become sibling brands as a result of Philip Morris Cos.' pending acquisition of Nabisco.)

Ferrero USA's Tic Tac grew 9.6% to $86 million.

Warner-Lambert Co.'s traditional Certs rolls fell 30% as the marketer is focusing the bulk of its attentions on the now $30 million Certs Cool Mint Drops and $24 million Certs Powerful Mints.

"Despite the proliferation of intense mints on the front rack, research shows that 68% of consumers still buy traditional mints in a roll," Mr. Tyree said. "And if you're going to have a roll, you should have the best roll."

Nabisco spent only $3.6 million on Breath Savers in 1999, in anticipation of high spending against the new reformulation, which Mr. Tyree acknowledged is the "biggest initiative to date on Breath Savers."

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