FORMAL INTRODUCTIONS

True ColorsDOWNERS GROVE, Ill. -- As the market for kid-friendly products continues to boom in the consumer packaged goods industry, the colored-food segment is gaining in popularity.Following the lead of the H.J. Heinz Co., which has had so much success with its green-colored ketchup that it just added "Funky Purple" to the mix, ConAgra Dairy Foods here has introduced Parkay Fun Squeeze in "Electric

True Colors

DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. -- As the market for kid-friendly products continues to boom in the consumer packaged goods industry, the colored-food segment is gaining in popularity.

Following the lead of the H.J. Heinz Co., which has had so much success with its green-colored ketchup that it just added "Funky Purple" to the mix, ConAgra Dairy Foods here has introduced Parkay Fun Squeeze in "Electric Blue" and "Shocking Pink." Rolling out nationwide this month, Fun Squeeze provides 10 percent of the FDA recommended daily intake of calcium and vitamins A, D and E. ConAgra Dairy is a division of ConAgra Foods, Omaha, Neb.

Called the first-ever squeezable buttery-flavored spread, Fun Squeeze marks one of the biggest new product introductions for Parkay. It is the result of a directive from ConAgra Foods to ConAgra Dairy to bring innovation into the spread category, according to Paula Ford, associate brand manager, Parkay.

"Yes, you can have success with a line extension. But to really make an impact on a category or segment, you need to shake it up," Ford told Brand Marketing.

Industry observers said that while marketers should be cautious when tapping into fads, the colored-food trend shows promise in consumable categories.

"It adds a play value to food," said Tom Vierhile, executive editor of Productscan Online, www.productscan.com, an online database from Marketing Intelligence Service, Naples, N.Y., a new-product reporting firm.

In doing so, colored foods are a way for food makers to get more than one product into shoppers' baskets. While parents may choose the regular version for themselves, they may often buy one or more of the colored products for their kids.

"It enables manufacturers to pack consumer refrigerators with two or three of everything," Vierhile said. "It's a good way of generating incremental sales."

Designed to be kid-friendly, Fun Squeeze features no-slip side grips that make it easier for small hands to hold and squeeze. It carries a suggested retail price $1.39, in line with other Parkay prices.

Parkay expects the introduction to grow the squeeze segment of the margarine category by 10%, according to Ford.

"Fun Squeeze will bring a whole new segment into the margarine category," Ford said.

ConAgra is supporting the launch with national television advertising, in-school sampling programs and national promotions geared toward parents and kids.

The colorful craze took off after Heinz launched its new EZ Squirt line last year. The original line featured Tomato Red and Blastin' Green, the latter of which was so popular that more 10 million bottles were sold in the first seven months. Heinz factories had to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to keep up with demand, according to Heinz. Consumers even bidded for bottles posted on eBay.

"The tremendous success of Heinz EZ Squirt Blastin' Green showed us that kids love decorating their food with colors that are bright, wild, even a little -- funky," said Casey Keller, managing director for ketchup, condiments and sauces at Heinz North America. Thousands of people called, wrote or e-mailed Heinz demanding a new Heinz EZ Squirt color. Purple was the color of choice.

Other marketers have also tapped into the colored-food market. Among them is Frito-Lay, Plano, Texas, which offers Cheetos Mystery Colorz Snacks. Through food technology, the neon orange-colored product turns the tongue either blue or green when eaten.