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Sales are spread thin.

Any way you spread it, 1983 was an uninspired year for most components of the spreads and syrups category. For peanut butter, an inexpensive source of protein, volume was flat--and dollars were down--partially due to the improved economy. The "mature" jellies, jams and preserves category remained relatively stable, and syrup performance, with the exception of pure maple, was flatter than a pancake.

Although the number of peanuts used to make peanut butter increased last year, dollar sales were down by approximately 6% compared with the year before, says Dick Miller of CPC International. CPC produces Skippy, the runner-up in market share after category leader Jif, from Procter & Gamble.

"From a total category standpoint, volume was flat, almost to the pound," he says, adding, "Last year, Skippy went the way of the category, but is up so far this year, although the overall category is down from a year ago."

A spokesman for the number three brand, Peter Pan, a product of Swift/Hunt-Wesson, says, "There's been an uptrend in Peter Pan sales and market share during the past year." He explains that Swift/Hunt-Wesson is now an operating company of the Esmark Corporation, which a acquired Norton Simon last summer. "One of the first moves was to shift the peter Pan brand to the Hunt sales force, so we now have one sales force calling on retailers," he says. "Our promotions continue to include incentives such as cents-off and couponing, and our thrust is focused upon children, the largest users of the category."

Last August, Peter Pan rolled out a new Salt Free, No Sugar Added peanut butter, which is sold nationally in the peanut butter section. The brand has also had a "No Sodium" product in the diet section for several years.

Skippy's Miller says the price of luncheon meats might have had something to do with peanut butter's poor performance last year. "I suspect that, perhaps, the narrowing of the price differential between peanut butter and luncheon meat--which has been declining over the last six months--may have impacted on peanut butter sales, based on the long-term correlation between the two factors."

Bill MacDonald, vice president of sales at Sunnyland Refining Co., which markets Superman Peanut Butter says, "lunch meats might have been down recently, but reports indicate that they will soon be up again. Peanut butter is a good source of protein, with no cholesterol. It will continue to be a staple in many people's diets." He says the Superman brand, which was introduced in July of 1981 has a 3% share of market, in terms of both dollars and units.

As far as fruit spreads are concerned, a spokesman for Smucker's, the category leader, says, "We saw no significant changes over the last 12 months, and we believe the category will remain relatively stable over the next year." The spokesman, noting that Smucker's has marketed a low-sugar item for some time now, feels that any impact from the current health craze" has probably already taken place."

Although Welch Food Inc., manufacturer of the second place brand, has also offered a "lite" version for several years, the number three brand, Kraft, does not have a reduced sugar item in its line. Kraft's Hilton Hale, group brand manager for fruit spreads and confections, says the brand gained market share last year despite the overall category's lackluster performance.

Richard Worth, president of Allied Old English Inc. in Port Reading, N.J., which manufactures Sorrell Ridge Fruit Only Conserves, has some definite opinions about the category. "The jam/jelly category in supers is a disaster waiting to happen. You've got a section now that's giving people everything they don't want--sugar, additives and calories." Sorrel Ridge, which is distributed nationally in natural food stores and specialty shops, has recently started rolling out its Fruit Only line in supermarkets. Surveying the syrup scene

The syrup story gets mixed reviews. According to Claude Tardif of the International Maple Syrup Institute, "The total syrup category is either leveling off or declining in some areas. But within the category, 100% pure maple increased between 5% and 15% last year, depending on the area of the country." He says the strongest growth areas for pure maple syrup appear to be California, New York, the New England states and southern Florida. "In areas where packers and producers promote, brands have increased," Tardif says. The two major brands are Camp Pure Maple Syrup (the leader), and United Maple Products.

For maple-flavored syrups, life hasn't been smooth. Betsy DeLange of the Quaker Oats Co., brand manager for Aunt Jemima Syrup, says, "The category has shown fairly consistent declines over the past couple of years--similar to the pancake mix category. However, Aunt Jemima syrups have shown significant growth." The brand's growth in 1983 was largely due to the performance of its Aunt Jemima Lite version. Says DeLange, "In our fiscal year ending June '83, our 'lite' business grew and our regular was flat. But in the fiscal year ending June '84, both have grown."

Similarly, at Lever Brothers, a spokes-person for Mrs. Butterworth Syrup says, "Although the overall category declined, Mrs. Butterworth has had a growing share in the last year."

DeLange says Aunt Jemima regular syrup products have been "bouncing back," thanks to strong promotional programs--teamed up with the company's pancake mixes--which were run during the first part of the year. "Our object in the future is to communicate how good a pancake breakfast is for the weekend," she adds.

Tardif agrees that promotion is the key to syrup success. "We've seen growth in some markets, such as on the Eastern seaboard, when General Foods' Log Cabin brand started promoting use of its syrup on foods other than pancakes and waffles, such as ice cream."

Like Aunt Jemima, Mrs. Butterworth is promoted along with its pancake products. The company's TV ads give out the "thick & rich" quality message. At Aunt Jemima, the only network ad campaign in progress now is for the "Lite" syrup. The taste-oriented ads tell consumers it's "too thick to be lite."

The honey business last year was far from sweet, according to Larry Scheutz, vice president of marketing for Sioux Honey Association, Sioux City, Iowa. He reports, "The category was definitely down for the year."

He says, in large part, the decline was the result of the government's Surplus Foods giveaway program, which distributed surplus honey to needy Americans in 3-pound containers. "Per capita honey consumption is only 1 pound per person, and the government is giving away a three-year supply. We're seeing an erosion of our market."

The Sioux Honey Association, which accounts for 32% of the branded honey business, produces Sue Bee Honey and Aunt Sue's nationally, and Bradshaw's on the West Coast, as well as a good deal of private label honey.
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Title Annotation:spreads and syrups
Publication:Progressive Grocer
Date:Jul 1, 1984
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