Keith Dilworth is in a lot of hot water these days, but that's OK with him. He oversees the Czech and Slovak republics' growth of Maggi, Nestle's brand of soup, bouillon and pasta.
Launched in March 1994, Maggi bouillon and dried soups faced tough competition from Vitana, a high-quality domestic brand made by Rieber & Sons, and Knorr, a well-known international brand made by CPC. Today, under Mr. Dilworth's direction, Nestle has achieved substantial gains over these rivals. A native of London, Mr. Dilworth, 32, started out in 1992 as brand manager for Nestle's Carpathia brand in the Slovak Republic, then moved to Prague in 1993 as the Maggi brand manager. He was later promoted to Nestle's director of marketing and is now the commercial director of sales and marketing.
Maggi brand sales in 1996 will approach $38 million, about 48% of Nestle's total annual revenue in the Czech Republic; 20% of total revenue is reinvested into brand advertising, promotions, research and packaging.
In most of the world, Maggi is mainly a brand of bouillon. Under managers like Mr. Dilworth, however, a few markets, including Germany and Eastern Europe, are developing the brand's potential with other products. This year the Maggi line has expanded to include hard-wheat pasta, pasta snacks, pasta sauces, international soups-Russian borscht, Hungarian goulash, Indonesian chicken soup and Italian minestrone-and additions, like cabbage, lentil and tripe, to the traditional soup line.
Mr. Dilworth, meanwhile, also has gained steadily on his major competitors. In July 1995, Maggi had 10% of the Czech soup market, while Knorr had a 19% share and Vitana 60%. One year later, Maggi controlled 21% against Knorr's 25% and Vitana's 51% shares. Including Slovak sales, however, Mr. Dilworth estimated that by the third quarter of 1996, Nestle controlled 34% of the republics' market.
As of August, Vitana had a 41% total share, while Knorr trailed with 23%.
"We have used a very consistent message," Mr. Dilworth said, "which is that we have a high quality product and we're not sacrificing quality for price."
To communicate that message to the target market of urban, middle-income working couples between the ages of 18 and 35, Nestle uses advertising from McCann-Erickson, Prague, and key loyalty-building promotions. Among them: the Maggi Kitchen Catalog, which was built into the brand marketing from day one.
Now thriving its third year, the catalog promotion works across the entire Maggi range-soups, bouillon, pasta and pasta snacks-and remains the only collecting scheme among grocery brands in the Czech Republic.
Mr. Dilworth estimated that 1 million 1996 catalogs have been distributed in the Czech and Slovak republics and about 250,000 households are actively collecting Maggi points. Consumers collect proofs of purchase to win everything from kitchen utensils to discounts on large Whirlpool appliances.
In August, Nestle ran a Maggi bouillon promotion that was the first instant-win promotion for a culinary brand in the Czech Republic. And last month, Nestle began using specially designed software to initiate a direct marketing program toward heavy brand users.
Mr. Dilworth, who was 18 when he joined Nestle in the U.K., now leads a team of 170 in both republics. Surpassing his domestic competitor, Vitana, is his first goal as he steers one of Eastern Europe's most sophisticated direct marketing and sales promotion efforts.
After that, "I want to achieve a higher per capita expenditure on Maggi products in the Czech Republic than in Germany, where Maggi is a phenomenally successful business."