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Meatless Burger Category Sizzling

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Worthington Breaks New Ads; Gardenburger 'Evaluates' Account
CHICAGO--Worthington Foods is showcasing its recently acquired Harvest Burger meat alternative brand, while a primary competitor rethinks its advertising.
Worthington acquired the Harvest Burger brand from Archer Daniels Midland Co. in September for $9.3 million. The meatless patties will add Worthington's Morningstar Farms name in January, when a $4 million consumer marketing program is launched.
As a prelude to that shift, Worthington last week began airing a 30-second informational TV spot, announcing the brand's new ownership, on broadcast and cable network shows such as NBC's Meet the Press, where ADM is an advertiser.
Morningstar Farms agency Fahlgren in Columbus, Ohio, is handling creative development for the current Harvest Burger campaign. Jones Thomas in Decatur, Ill., is handling media placement, as it does for ADM. The first-quarter consumer push will use different creative, promoting the entire Morningstar Farms product line, said David Schwantes, marketing vice president for Worthington.
Worthington's moves come as Wholesome & Hearty Foods in Portland, Ore., marketer of Gardenburger meatless patties, said it is "evaluating" its $10 million account--but not yet formally reviewing it--in the wake of changes at its agency, Publicis & Hal Riney in Chicago.
Bill Marks, a client director at Riney and manager of the Gardenburger account, was one of three executives who recently left the shop to open a Chicago office of Rubin Postaer and Associates [Adweek, Nov. 23].
For the 52 weeks ending Nov. 8, Gardenburger was the top brand in the $484 million meat alternative category with an 8.9 percent sales share, according to Information Resources. (Private label brands in total had a 9 percent share). Morningstar Farms was close behind with a 7.6 percent share, and its BetterBurgers brand added another 2 percent.
Gardenburger is also the category's most heavily advertised brand. Its investment of more than $1.5 million on a 30-second slot during the May 14 Seinfeld finale gave a sales boost to the whole category, said Worthington's Schwantes. With the addition of Harvest Burger, Worthington wants to assert its "category leadership," he said.