Soy milk goes mainstream with ads

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Soy milk marketer White Wave is rolling out an estimated $10 million to $15 million marketing push to attract both health-minded consumers who can't bring themselves to eat soy and soy converts.

The effort marks the first national mainstream campaign for Silk, the country's top-selling refrigerated soy milk. Its sales were $5.2 million for the 52 weeks ended Feb. 27, up more than six times from the previous year, according to Information Resources Inc. Ads broke in May magazines such as Utne Reader and People. June publications include Prevention, Fitness, Cooking Light, Real Simple and O, The Oprah Magazine. The campaign will run through March 2001.

"We're really talking to the self-conscious grocery shopper who already is aware of the benefits of soy but doesn't know how easy it is to incorporate it into their diet," said Liz Rammer, account director at Carmichael Lynch, Minneapolis, which is handling the account. "It's not just for the hardcore health enthusiast anymore."

Women 32 to 55 years-old are the primary target, said James Terman, VP-pictures and words at White Wave. "They're the gatekeepers," he said. "They're the ones that everything has to get past before it gets to their family's table."

He said the record spending push would have been impractical just two years ago. That changed this fall, when the U.S. Food & Drug Administration said soy marketers could claim it helps fight high cholesterol and heart disease.

"This is an easy entree [for consumers] into the soy world," said Randy Hughes, creative director at Carmichael Lynch. "When you say you need to get soy into your diet to be healthy, people think of tofu and `Oh my gosh, I don't know how to prepare this.' It turns them off. In an age of fast and easy, we just tried to show how simple it is. You can increase the amount of soy in your diet simply by pouring Silk on your cereal in the mornings."


Carmichael Lynch won the account without a review in October. The ads carry the "Get your soy with silk" tag. Previous efforts had been handled in-house.

With the new effort, Silk also is going after lactose-intolerant people as well as soy loyalists who drink competing products, Mr. Terman said.

Radio will air in Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco and Seattle. TV could follow. The $10 million to $15 million marketing budget also includes Internet advertising, event marketing, public relations and trade shows.


"The market is ripe for soy to move mainstream. It's been a staple of the health-food set for some time," Mr. Hughes said.

Calcium- and vitamin-enriched Silk has 1% fat and is sweeter than cow's milk. About 18 months ago, the marketer branched out from health-food stores into conventional supermarkets, Mr. Terman said.

"We're in an extremely aggressive growth curve," he said. "People are describing the taste as smooth; it's something to their liking. It surprises a lot of people."

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