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Procter & Gamble Co. on March 14 will trim the price of Joy dishwashing liquid by 12% in response to price cutting by Lever Bros. on its Sunlight brand.

The move signals P&G's determination to protect market share and reflects the company's recent strategy to establish a value positioning for some secondary brands.

P&G almost two years ago made Joy a value-price brand to better compete in the crowded $900 million dishwashing liquid category. The company adapted the approach from a successful effort in the U.K. with Fairy dishwashing liquid.

"Procter's price cutting on Joy was prompted by an average 10% price decline by Lever on Sunlight in 1993," said Andrew Shore, analyst at PaineWebber. "Lever dropped the average price on a 16-ounce bottle to 80 cents in 1993 from 89 cents in 1992."

A P&G spokeswoman said the price reduction "brings Joy more in line with key competitors that also have reduced prices, and it positions Joy to compete more effectively in the value segment."

Advertising from Grey Advertising, New York, underscores the getting-the-most-for-your-money idea with the tagline, "A spoonful cleans a sink full."

Joy's sales have been on a downward spiral for several years. P&G leads the category with Dawn, the only brand to show growth in both dollar and unit sales, according to Information Resources Inc. For the 52-week period ended Jan. 2, Dawn held a 23.7% share of total supermarket sales of $524.9 million; Joy was fifth with a 6.9% share.

The P&G spokeswoman emphasized the brand wouldn't be discontinued and reiterated the company's commitment to Joy as a value brand to round out the lineup with premium brands Dawn and Ivory.

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