Snacks & Candy

Crafting a 100-Calorie Strategy

Snack makers leveraging portion control trend

NEW YORK -- The success of Kraft Foods' Nabisco 100 Calorie Packs has drawn the attention of competitors, reported Ad Age, including Kellogg Co.'s Keebler Right Bites to Procter & Gamble's Pringles 100 Calorie packs. Now, PepsiCo's Frito Lay unit is readying an estimated $20 million media effort to tout its own 100-calorie Mini Bites as "The right snacks for sensible munching.

According to Tom Vierhile, executive editor of Datamonitor's Productscan Online, the number of products touting pre-portioned 100-calories per serving packaging totaled 44 [image-nocss] in 2005, up from only Kraft Foods' initial five in 2004. Already this year, Vierhile said, there are 14 new 100-calorie introductions and he expects more.

Kraft's success has certainly been a motivator, the report said. Nabisco 100 Calorie Packs were introduced in July 2004 and recent Information Resources (IRI) data show sales grew 82.3% to $115 million in food, drug and mass outlets excluding Wal-Mart for the 52 weeks ended March 19.

Retail executives have been surprised by the success, the report said, guessing consumers would be unwilling to pay for what one Arizona buyer called "products that are overpriced and underfilled. That same buyer, though, is now predicting success for Frito's launch this spring of Sun Chips, Doritos Nacho Cheese, Cool Ranch and Baked and regular Cheetos in 100 Calorie Mini-Bites packaging. "People seem to be willing to pay to have calorie and portion control," he told the magazine.

Control appears to be a key motivation of the 100-calorie trend. Kellogg spokesperson Kris Charles said that feeling of control has helped bring new or lapsed users back to the cookie category because the packaging "makes it more acceptable to eat cookies," she told Ad Age.

Keebler Right Bites, though, have not fared as well as its Nabisco counterparts, with sales totaling only $14 million for the line for the March 19 time period, according to the report, citing IRI data. Kellogg has failed to spend the big media dollars Kraft has levied against its 100-calorie packaging. Kraft spent a total of $34 million in media to tout the packaging and product tweaks for the various packs from July 2004 through December 2005, while Kellogg has spent nothing, relying instead on in-store efforts.

Kraft continues to extend its 100-calorie idea, said the report. This month, it adds Ritz Chip and Wheat Thins Multi-Grain Chip varieties and South Beach Diet Bars and Balance Bars to a portfolio that already includes thin crisp versions of Oreo, Chips Ahoy and Planter's Peanut Butter cookies. In June it expects to launch 100 Calorie Packs of Jell-O Pudding.

General Mills has entered the category with 100-calorie versions of Chex Mix Traditional Snack Mix and Pop Secret popcorn, Cadbury Schweppes last year launched a 100-calorie candy bar, Cadbury Thins, and smaller players like Snyder's of Hanover have jumped on board.

Already the trend has outlasted the longevity of the carb fad, but whether it moves beyond niche status or not remains to be seen, Ad Age said.

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