Nestle tries fresh approach for premium Ortega salsa

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Nestle USA hopes to spice up sales of its Ortega salsas with the introduction this month of a new premium line called Salsa Prima.

Intended to go head-to-head with entries from Campbell Soup Co.'s Pace brand, the line of five vegetable-packed salsas will be supported with $8 million in media beginning in March as well as with in-store sampling and couponing. The effort intends to highlight the product's fresh taste.

The launch is part of Nestle's plan to grow its Ortega franchise and the Mexican category in which it competes, according to an executive close to the company. Ortega's sales in the overall Mexican sauce and marinades category dropped 3.9% to $19 million in 1999, compared with growth of 11.5% to $246.3 million for Frito-Lay's Tostitos brand. Pace grew 1% to $221 million during the period, according to Information Resources Inc. figures.

Nestle research shows that while the price-driven segment of the salsa category has declined, the premium end -- led by Pace -- has seen consistent growth over the last three years, surging 11% for the 52 weeks ended July 10. Nestle is hoping that the growth fueled by new premium segments in spaghetti sauce, ice cream and coffees will likewise work to grow salsas, especially its own Ortega brand.


The new varieties, including Homestyle, Roasted Garlic and Three Bell Pepper, feature chunks of six types of vegetables and come packaged in mason jars to convey a premium image. Spots for Salsa Prima on major broadcast and cable TV networks bow in March and run through June, while print ads in publications such as Time Inc.'s Entertainment Weekly and People will begin appearing in April issues. The campaign, from McCann-Erickson Worldwide, Los Angeles, touts the lineup as "The salsa with the fresh bite!"


Nestle hopes to drive trial of the line with a heavy in-store sampling program running in March and again around Cinco de Mayo offering consumers a chance to "Take the Fresh Bite Challenge!" Coupon inserts in Sunday newspapers will drive home the fresh message as well, with one on April 30 reaching nearly 50 million consumers with the headline, "Fresh taste guaranteed" and an offer for a full refund if consumers don't agree Salsa Prima has a fresh taste.

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