SHELF CHALLENGES YIELD NEW STRATEGIES

SAN ANTONIO -- With competition for shelf space at an all time high, smaller brand marketers are devising alternative strategies to get their products accepted by retailers.Meeting that challenge spawns creative ways to go to market, as was evident at the National Food Distributor Association's Mid-Winter Table Top Show here.Gilway Co., Paramus, N.J., a small importer, is introducing small packages

SAN ANTONIO -- With competition for shelf space at an all time high, smaller brand marketers are devising alternative strategies to get their products accepted by retailers.

Meeting that challenge spawns creative ways to go to market, as was evident at the National Food Distributor Association's Mid-Winter Table Top Show here.

Gilway Co., Paramus, N.J., a small importer, is introducing small packages of Sweet Suites, sugar in the shape of hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades. Outgunned by the likes of Domino Sugar, the company is using direct mail, targeting members of thousands of card clubs. It asks members where they shop, then seeks to sell the line to retailers, using consumer endorsements.

Asian Home Gourmet, Singapore, offers an intriguing cross-promotion centering on quarterly issues of its own Asian Home Gourmet magazine, "The first magazine devoted solely to Asia." Display shippers offer a copy of the magazine plus seasoning packets of Peanut Sauce, Meat Satay seasoning mix and lots of bamboo skewers for a $2.99 retail. Offering a new way to promote Asian foods throughout the year, another series of five shippers encourages customers to "Grill Out in Asia's Backyard" for Fourth of July and offers suggestions for a "New Way to Roast Chicken During the Holidays," among others.

Hershey Chocolate will move its Ovation and Golden Collection chocolate bars to specialty distribution exclusively, according to its new marketing manager, Michael Hughes. The company hopes these quality products, which are "also-rans" among the company's regular line of confectionery, will stand out with excellent brand recognition.

FitFoods Inc., Newton Centre, Mass., is boosting a line of nutritional snacks using in-store campaigns together with an 800-FitChip phone line. Callers can obtain tips on how to improve snacking and their lifestyles. The company is calling this the "Safe Snacking Hot Line."

Kashi Co., La Jolla, Calif., is using its cereal package designs to boost in-store presence. Two different cartons with two different fronts per carton mean four facings with a different shelf presence. Images depicted on boxes of its "Good Friends" line include men, women, old, young and a variety of nationalities.

For kids "hip" to the Internet, Allotafun! Inc., Milwaukee, offers not only communications with the company but a fistful of candy and collectible toys, trading cards, pogs, stickers, comics, etc., on its brightly decorated boxes. The company is limiting its distribution to classes of trade serviced by direct-store-delivery distributors, away from food and confectionery brokers. Positioned for consumers ages 4 through 12, the company hopes to capture the excitement that helped build Cracker Jacks into such a success -- a confection with a prize in every box.