Top 10 Food Brands of 2005

Our picks for those trademarks that have withstood the test of time and forged an emotional connection with consumers.

By Diane Toops, News and Trends Editor

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Hershey capitalizes on patriotism and loyalty. It's been the official chocolate of the American military since World War I, when Hershey Bars were included in soldiers' rations. During World War II, one billion bars were distributed by American soldiers on foreign shores.

Hershey's primary strategy has been to own the U.S. market - and that strategy has served the confectionery company well. Only 5 percent of its business is outside of the U.S., so its options are boundless. Today, Hershey sells 3.5 billion bars per year, leads the confectionery market with a 30 percent share for its brands, has one of the most effective logistics networks, maintains a cost-efficient value chain, leads in special edition products and stokes a pipeline of new confectionery products, continuously creating buzz.

Kellogg's: They're grrrreat!

There's a global franchise for cereal, and it belongs to Kellogg's. In fact, its brand identity is a synonym for cereal flakes, which it invented by accident in 1894. One of the few successful food businesses that can trace its origin back to a philosophy that urged people to improve their health by changing their eating habits, The Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., has nurtured its brand since the 1906 launch of Toasted Corn Flakes cereal.

Cereal is good for you. This simple, clear message has worked very well for the company. If all the Kellogg's cereal boxes consumed since 1906 were placed side-by-side, they would ring the earth more than 3,000 times. Kellogg, the world's leading producer of cereals (more than 40) and convenience foods, enjoyed sales in 2004 of almost $10 billion. Its products are marketed in more than 180 countries around the world, and it employs more than 15,600 people worldwide.

Kellogg flourishes through skillful marketing of good products and by creating and sustaining a valuable brand name. It's a good example of multiple branding; each product is given its own clear identity and defining characteristics but is marketed using the Kellogg's brand name as an umbrella.

Tony the Tiger, Kellogg's most famous spokesman at No. 9 on Advertising Age's Top Brands list, was born in 1951, when advertising genius Leo Burnett was hired to create a campaign for Kellogg's new cereal, Sugar Frosted Flakes.

One of four animated critters created to sell the product to kids, Tony edged out Katy the Kangaroo, Newt the Gnu and Elmo the Elephant to become the sole star of the cereal maker's ad efforts. Originally an orange cat with black stripes and a blue nose, he walked on all fours, but he has undergone extensive cosmetic changes over the decades. When America started heading for health clubs, Tony got a slimmer and more muscular physique and stood upright. In sync with his Baby Boomer following, Tony grew up, married Mama Tony, had a son Tony Jr. and daughter Antoinette, born appropriately in 1974, the Chinese year of the tiger. One thing that's remained constant for much of Tony's life is his voice, provided by the late Thurl Ravenscroft, who gave Tony his trademark growl: "They're grrrreat!"

M&M's: Chocolate is better in color

Candy is dandy, and consumers like to reward themselves with small indulgences. In fact, confectionery sales are booming, particularly at Masterfoods USA, Hackettstown, N.J., a division of Mars Inc. and the home of M&M's, one of the most popular brands in the world.

"We are committed to our core brands: M&M's, Snickers, Starburst and Skittles," explains Timothy LeBel, vice president of sales strategy. "The consumer is our boss; we deliver what they want, and we continue to make products relevant to each generation."

LeBel also explains the importance of collaborative planning. "Our goal is to successfully align customer strategy, brand strategy and consumer demand to win in the marketplace," he says. "And we are always looking for opportunities to create new snacking occasions and leverage other iconic properties to bring new news and excitement to consumers. Specifically, we build national overlays and activation plans surrounding our sponsorship with the NFL and NASCAR, and develop Limited Edition products that are tied to iconic events such as creating dark chocolate M&M's for the release of Star Wars Episode III. This strategy brings continued excitement to our category and builds incremental growth at retail."

While Starburst and Skittles have their fans, M&Ms candies are at the core of Masterfoods' success. The universally loved M&Ms brand characters and the famous slogan, "The milk chocolate melts in your mouth - not in your hand," debuted in TV ads in 1954. Reinforcing brand awareness, the characters appeared on packaging in 1972. In the 1980s, the company expanded internationally, primarily in Europe. The candies became so popular with consumers, the first space shuttle astronauts chose to have M&M's onboard. Utilizing the M&M's characters in 1996, Mars' ad campaign catapulted to the No. 1 position, as rated by <I>USA Today.</I> The characters became a hit with consumers, too - surpassing even the popularity of Mickey Mouse and Bart Simpson, according to Marketing Evaluation Inc.

M&M's branding succeeds because the company uses humor and fun to get us to identify with one of their charming Brand Spokescandies - winners of the Favorite Ad Icons and Slogans contest sponsored the American Assn. of Advertising Agencies last November. Taking a bow were Red, the leader of the pack (or so he thinks); Yellow, the optimist who sees the good in everything; Crispy (he's orange), who longs to be on the endangered species list; Blue, a most confident fellow who likes the ladies, particularly Green, the resident femme fatale. Introduced in 1997, this multifaceted '90s woman has starred in a number of commercials, and she's toured the U.S. promoting her autobiography, "I Melt for No One."

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