Since its romantic couple first graced the airwaves in November 1990, Taster's Choice has managed to increase its dollar share of the $596 million soluble coffee market by more than 3 share points, leapfrogging past Folgers and Maxwell House into the No. 1 postion TASTER'S CHOICE ROLLS LOVE POTION NO. 9

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As the romance of the Taster's Choice couple grows, so does the market share of the Nestle Beverage Corp. product.

For more than three years, consumers have been intrigued by the couple's romance, from their first meeting as new neighbors to the surprise visit of a young man calling the woman "Mom."

Today the saga created by McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, unfolds its ninth episode.

A year after the first commercial ran in November 1990, Taster's Choice surpassed both Procter & Gamble Co.'s Folgers and Philip Morris Cos.' Maxwell House to become the No. 1 instant coffee.

The product has managed to increase its dollar share of the soluble coffee segment by more than 3 points. However, sales for the segment have fallen nearly $200 million since 1990.

"It is a very effective advertising campaign," said Ronald Morrow, an analyst for Smith Barney Shearson, New York. "The campaign is part of the reason why Taster's Choice has increased market share."

Taster's Choice holds 24% of the $596 million soluble coffee segment, according to A.C. Nielsen Co., Northbrook, Ill. It's followed by Folgers with 21.5% and Maxwell House with 19.2%.

Even though market share has increased, the top instant coffee marketer's sales have fallen to $143 million in 1993, off 10.6% from 1990. But during the same period, the total instant coffee segment plunged 22.4%.

"Ground roast blends have gotten better and are pulling share from the soluble coffee market," Mr. Morrow said. "And the advent of the Starbucks of the world have helped the ground roast blends grow."

Sales of regular hot coffee were flat in 1993, according to Nielsen. This is due to specialty and gourmet coffees that have dominated the hot coffee segment. Also, the popularity and growth of ready-to-drink liquid teas and New Age beverages continue to eat into hot coffee sales.

The Taster's Choice soap opera, on which Nestle has spent an estimated $15 million a year, will continue tonight during CBS' "Northern Exposure."

Viewers will find out the young man is her son, Jeremy, who is home from college. Later that evening after meeting with her son, the woman calls her suitor on the phone to tell him how much Jeremy liked him.

He asks, "Is there anything else you forgot to tell me?"

The spot ends with her answer: "Volumes."

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