GERBER INTRODUCES NEW ITEMS, PLASTIC JARS

SUMMIT, N.J. -- Gerber Products wants to lead the baby aisle and keep parents shopping there longer, so the company, a division of Novartis Consumer Health here, has introduced several new food and nonfood items. The company has also made a dramatic change to its 4-ounce juice, using plastic instead of the glass Gerber has been using for 40 years.On Feb. 5, 2001, Gerber will introduce eight new flavors

SUMMIT, N.J. -- Gerber Products wants to lead the baby aisle and keep parents shopping there longer, so the company, a division of Novartis Consumer Health here, has introduced several new food and nonfood items. The company has also made a dramatic change to its 4-ounce juice, using plastic instead of the glass Gerber has been using for 40 years.

On Feb. 5, 2001, Gerber will introduce eight new flavors in its Second Foods line, and more. Its organic, premium Tender Harvest line, which is currently a Second Foods line, will add First Foods and Third Foods to make it a complete line for every feeding stage, according to Julie Cary, director of marketing.

Steve Colton, director of Gerber baby food, told SN a regional rollout of the new juice was done recently in all food retailers in Minneapolis, which started as a test market and has now expanded. "We've had terrific success with it," added Mitch Pisik, vice president of business operations. "The numbers were double-digit growth. We were surprised at how strong it was, so we expanded the test and the numbers continued to be strong."

"Moms have been asking us for plastic packaging; they have this perception of the glass clinking, and fear of breakage," Colton told SN, even though he and Pisik said breakage is rare.

In Minneapolis, Gerber has seen a 15% growth in the 4-ounce juice, Colton said. All SuperValu, Fleming and Nash Finch affiliate stores carry the juice in plastic.

It will be out on a national basis Feb. 5, in all 16 flavors.

Also new in juice is what Colton described as "a little sippy top," purchased separately, that screws onto the container, to help a child drink. Gerber nipples will also fit on the plastic bottle, Colton said, as they currently do on the glass bottles. Graphics on the juice label will be new, showing fruit to provide improved taste appeal, and so consumers can quickly identify it on the shelf.

Single, strained fruits will also come out in plastic in the four top-selling items in four-packs, with re-sealable tops, Pisik said.