MINNEAPOLIS - While ConAgra Inc. corporate executives hastened to reassure stockholders last week that its Healthy Choice brand was on track, at least one company insider admitted that 'we have to figure this thing out.'
ConAgra's growing pains with its biggest brand may have its agency, CME/KHBB, Minneapolis, going back to the drawing board to develop a plan to better market the brand in categories where its competitors have caught up.
Early last week three industry analysts lowered their earnings projections and the Wall Street Journal took a hard look at the over-extended brand that is starting to show substantial slow-downs - most notably in the frozen category.
'Price wars in the frozen foods category have taken a toll on everyone and it's hard to make a profit,' said the ConAgra source. 'Now, however, consumers buy in this category because of taste.'
Weight Watchers and most notably Stouffer Foods Corp. fought Healthy Choice's introduction two years ago with reformulated products that deliver improved health benefits and better taste.
ConAgra plans to continue its current campaign, 'Healthy Choice. Never Settle For Less' in the short term, but the source said the successful Tatham Euro RSCG-produced Stouffer campaign for Lean Cuisine, which focuses more on taste, means ConAgra needs to make sure 'there isn't a better campaign out there for us.'
'We are on track, but that doesn't mean we can take our eye off the ball,' said the source. 'We have a bigger idea than just low-calorie.'
Healthy Choice's original difference, nutritional benefits, isn't a factor anymore, according to an agency source familiar with the category.
'The playing field is now level,' said the agency source. '(Healthy Choice) has to be repositioned.'
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