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More salty snack marketers jumped into the consumer promotion arena last year to tap into America's growing appetite for new products and flavors.

Total spending on coupons and other consumer promotions in this $10 billion category increased more than 25% to $43.3 million in 1993, according to a survey conducted for Advertising Age by Promotion Information Management, Chicago.

The number of promotional events-including free standing inserts, newspaper and magazine coupons, and direct mail pieces-rose just under 8% to 275 with 2.8 billion circulation in 1993.

PIM measures promotions in major product categories on a continual basis by independently monitoring manufacturers coupons.

In a giant leap, salty snack marketer Nabisco Foods Group took the top spot in '93 with $8.4 million in promotions for its Mr. Phipps and Planters brands, more than double the $3.8 million it spent in 1992. The number of promotions more than doubled to 13 from six, with a November promotion for Mr. Phipps pretzel chips and other brands almost equaling all of '92 spending.

That promotion, handled in-house, involved tie-ins and refunds on Sony audio and video products as well as a free Crayola Fun Kit for buying Planters Snacks.

Ralston Foods, a subsidiary of Ralcorp Holdings, last year moved to the No. 5 spot with an estimated $3.8 million in consumer promotions, up from a mere $200,000 in '92.

The company, however, said that the amount of money allocated to promotions overall hasn't changed "materially from 1992 to 1993."

"PIM makes a distinction between trade and consumer promotions somewhat differently than we do," said Patrick Farrell, director of corporate affairs.

Virtually all spending supported Chex Snack Mix, which encountered new competition from Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Party Mix and Cheerios Salty Snack Mix from General Mills.

The survey showed that Ralston conducted 18 promotional events during '93, including a multiple promotion involving a coupon, NFL watch with proof-of-purchase and a sweepstakes for a scholarship and trip to the Super Bowl.

Keebler Co., the most active promoter in '92, dropped to the No. 2 spot after cutting promotion spending 25% to $5.7 million in '93. After heavy promotions for its Pizzarias pizza chips and Quangles multigrain snacks in '92, last year's promotional dollars were directed almost exclusively to introducing Chacho's flour tortilla chips and various flavors of C.C. Ricers. Kobin Enterprises, New York, is the promotional agency.

Frito-Lay, the nation's leading salty snack company, remained the third most active promoter, with a 2% increase in spending to $5 million. DDB Needham Worldwide, Dallas, created promotions for a number of brands including Doritos and Tostitos tortilla chips, Lay's potato chips, Fritos corn chips and Rold Gold pretzels.

Procter & Gamble Co. dropped from second to fourth in spending with a 25% reduction to $4 million last year. Many of its 23 promotional events for Pringles in '92 were regional, while three of its six promotions in '93 had national distribution, according to the survey.

Despite cutbacks by Keebler, P&G, General Mills and M&M/Mars, promotional activity by marketers new to the top spending ranks more than offset those losses. The survey showed that 61 marketers conducted consumer promotions last year, up 7% from 57 in '92. The top 11 marketers spent $1 million or more on coupons and other promotions in '93.

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