CHICAGO -- Quaker Oats chose an in-pack sampling strategy to introduce Kibbles 'n Bits Jerky Treats and is backing it with a pallet display program and a variety of off-shelf displays in retail stores.
The company is using special 4-lb. bags of its Kibbles 'n Bits premium dog food to distribute 2 million free samples of the new chewy dog treat this spring, said Steve Parker, marketing manager of pet treats for Quaker.
Central to the introduction strategy for the product was the question of how to get the product sampled, he said. When the end consumer is a dog, not a person, the in-store approach poses obvious limitations as a new product promotion strategy.
"We settled on an in-pack sample," he said. "Our strategy was to leverage the equities of the dog food product -- quality, variety and taste. We see it as a perfect fit for the world of premium dog food customers."
Each specially marked dog food pack contains a pouch with one strip of three flavor varieties of the treats. A coupon is also enclosed to encourage repeat purchases.
Parker said his brand group saw its best prospects for a new line of Kibbles 'n Bits Jerky Treats among its current customers of Kibbles 'n Bits dog food. "Our market research tells us that 50% of all Kibbles 'n Bits users also feed their dogs some kind of treat," he said.
Of 36 million dog owners in America, 70% feed their pets some form of treat. Market data show that soft treats are growing in popularity, up 11% in the latest 52 weeks vs. a year ago, he said, while hard treats, or dog biscuits, declined 4% in unit volume in the same period. Soft treats now account for 33% of the category.
Treats are a growing business with higher margins and higher price per pound than pet food, he added. He said he sees the trade activities as promoting the strength of the Kibbles 'n Bits brand with retailers.
The sample packs will be distributed nationwide over a six-month period, said Parker. Shipments began in January. Media support, primarily $3 million worth of television commercials, began in April, with a second flight of ads scheduled for July.
The Kibbles 'n Bits dog food bags carry a printed message on their bottom panels, since the packs are typically displayed lying flat on lower shelves.
Shipments of the full-sized Kibbles 'n Bits Jerky Treats packages are also in stores now. Each is a 3-ounce foil laminate pouch containing four strips each of three flavors. The product is available in beef and bacon flavor assortments.
Quaker is assembling a mixed shipper -- a full pallet display which carries the special packs of dog food and also contains a Jerky Strips prepacked display that can be placed separately in the retail store. While full pallets may be best suited for mass merchants and pet superstores, he expects some larger supermarkets may take them on.
The in-store activities also are being backed with a freestanding insert that has a coupon offering a free pack of the Jerky Treats -- suggested retail, $1.59 -- with purchase of the 4-lb. bag of pet food. The program also incorporates market development funds for ad support, Parker said.
He added that the trend in the pet food category is toward increased displays and more merchandising off the shelf. Quaker is making small off-shelf shippers available, which carry six cases each, or 72 units. "We will also be using clip-strips for secondary displays," he said.
Quaker Oats' pet food division already has broad offerings in the dog treats area, including such brands as Snausages, Pupperoni, Canine Carryouts and 100% Natural Treats. It also markets the Ken-l Ration dog food brand.