Nestle puts Ortega into freezer case with $45 mil push

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Nestle USA plans to bring the whole enchilada into the frozen food aisle this fall.

The company is extending its Ortega Mexican foods brand into the freezer case with an extensive line of 13 meals and dips backed by a whopping $45 million marketing budget. The launch will begin in markets west of the Mississippi.

The budget--more than 10 times what Nestle spent on its Ortega brand last year--reflects the importance of the introduction, one of the company's biggest initiatives this year. Its next most significant endeavor was the $35 million introduction of Stouffer's Oven Sensations (AA, April 10), being unveiled, as is the Ortega line, in September.


The frozen Mexican food category grew by $70 million last year and with no national player, the potential upside for the well-known Ortega brand is high, according to Nestle. Currently, Mexican foods are more entrenched in the shelf-stable categories of salsas and taco shells. Nestle, the leader in the $4.5 billion frozen dinner and entree category, hopes to change that.

Advertising, from McCann-Erickson Worldwide, Los Angeles, breaks in September and includes TV through May 2001, radio through April and outdoor. All likely will tout the Ortega frozen lineup as "A fiesta of flavor in your freezer."


Nestle hopes Ortega ads will draw consumers looking for an authentic-yet-easy at-home alternative to increasingly popular Mexican fast-food restaurants. Creative is believed to showcase the lineup of microwaveable Mexican products, including five single-serve offerings such as enchiladas and burritos; a selection of four Fiesta Dips; and four Skillet Meals, including Nacho Chicken Supreme and Chicken Fajitas. Nestle also will promote the Ortega frozen line with point of purchase ads as well as extensive in-store sampling.

Nestle already has met success with frozen meat-and-vegetable meal kits. Its Stouffer's Skillet Sensations grew to $84 million in sales and sparked follow-up Stouffer's Oven Sensations. The marketer hopes to use the new Ortega line to further capitalize on consumers' increasing interest in convenient solutions to the dilemma of mealtime.

Package-goods marketers have sought to drive retail growth of Mexican products by borrowing the equity of fast-feeders, with Kraft Foods extending the Taco Bell brand into shelf-stable boxed meal kits and individual Mexican products, and Hormel Foods launching a line of shelf-stable products under the banner of El Torito, a Mexican restaurant chain on the West Coast.

Nestle has tested frozen products under the Ortega name in three markets since 1998. It spent $241,000 in measured media against those items in 1999, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Nestle spent a total $4.1 million for Ortega sauces and various Mexican products in 1999.

Ortega's sales in the shelf-stable Mexican foods category--including tortillas, taco kits, seasoning and peppers--were $108 million for the 52 weeks ended March 26, according to Information Resources Inc.

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