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Whetting people's appetites for sardines may seem an impossibility, but Morten Saedberg considers it a challenge.

Mr. Saedberg, director of marketing at Norway Foods in Stavanger, Norway, has increased the U.S. market for a brand the company has sold in the States since 1902: King Oscar sardines.

When Mr. Saedberg, 32, joined the seafood exporter in 1992, he had a goal: to lower the male 45-plus demographic that had been King Oscar's primary consumer.

"We wanted to target a younger audience without losing track of our current consumer," he says.

Mr. Saedberg discovered Americans-like many Europeans-value food that tastes good while also being good for you. Since sardines are known as excellent sources of calcium and omega-3 fatty acids, Mr. Saedberg wanted to emphasis nutrition.

The company-along with its U.S. importer and distributor, Nozaki America-stayed with its longstanding U.S. agency, McClure & Tjerandsen, San Francisco, to come up with its strategy.

The agency devised a radio campaign-in seven markets-using the familiar voice of TV actor Tom Poston in a series of humorous spots that emphasize the taste and nutritious value of King Oscar sardines.

Free standing inserts also were used as well as the offer of a free cookbook.

The agency also launched a PR campaign to educate food writers, and it succeeded in getting the cookbook mentioned in several consumer publications.

As a result, sardine sampling is on the rise, stateside. Last year, Norway Foods sold 16 million tins of King Oscar sardines, an 8.5% increase compared with 1992.

Now that's appetizing.

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