September 16, 2019

Campaign Spotlight: This Pet Food Critic Is as Catty as They Come

The campaign, which gets under way this week, is for the new Merrick Purrfect Bistro brand of superpremium cat food from Merrick Pet Care, a leader in the growing category of natural and organic pet foods. Purrfect Bistro is a line of 21 products, in cans and bags, that replaces a Merrick brand called Before Grain.

Print and online ads for Merrick Purrfect Bistro — along with the brand’s presence in social media like blogs, Facebook, Klout and Twitter — will be fronted by an American Shorthair cat named W. (Mittens) Bloomfield, a feline food critic who is as finicky and opinionated as any human counterpart. The centerpiece of the campaign is a Web site, styled like a food blog, where the critical cat will hold forth on favorite meals — all of them, not surprisingly, featuring Purrfect Bistro products.

The campaign is being created by Carmichael Lynch Spong in Minneapolis, part of the Carmichael Lynch division of the Interpublic Group of Companies. Carmichael Lynch and Carmichael Lynch Spong began working for Merrick in April 2012.

The campaign has a budget estimated at $100,000, which would be considerably more than what Merrick Pet Care has spent of late on advertising. According to the Kantar Media division of WPP, Merrick spent $6,000 last year to advertise in major media, $2,000 in 2011 and $7,000 in 2010.

The campaign arrives as competition is intensifying in the higher-priced segment of the pet food market, particularly involving brands that are billed as organic or natural. Products are arriving from pet food giants like Mars, Purina and Procter Gamble as well as family-owned and entrepreneurial firms like Ainsworth Pet Nutrition, Blue Buffalo and Merrick Pet Care.

For instance, the September issue of Good Housekeeping magazine, as mainstream a media outlet as there is, carries ads for nontraditional pet food brands like Blue, Iams So Good, Nutro Natural Choice and Rachael Ray Nutrish Zero Grain.

“Purrfect Bistro is a continuation of the ‘Merrick real food revolution’ we began last fall,” says Pete Brace, vice president for communications and pet parent relations at Merrick Pet Care in Amarillo, Tex., referring to a campaign that started with the company’s dog food products.

Merrick is “known for premium natural dog food and our pet treats business,” Mr. Brace says, “and with the launch of Purrfect Bistro, now it’s time to focus on the felines.”

By making the Purrfect Bistro cat character a foodie, the campaign should “appeal to that passionate pet parent” who is more than likely a foodie when it comes to what he or she eats, Mr. Brace says.

(Yes, you read correctly, the phrase is “pet parent,” not “pet owner.” It is turning up more often in pet food advertising, particularly from companies that charger higher prices for their products.)

The idea is that the new brand “offers the variety, taste, texture, protein and quality they’re seeking” in cat food, he adds.

W. (Mittens) Bloomfield evokes a number of pet food brand mascots, especially Morris, the finicky cat that represents the 9 Lives brand of cat food sold by Del Monte Foods.

Mr. Brace demurs. “We really don’t see it that way,” he says, because the character “is not really a spokescat, if you will.”

Rather, the cat critic is “the foil or the muse, to educate and entertain,” he adds, and displays “that discerning, endearing personality much like one’s own cat.”

As the campaign unfolds, the character will be “opining on a number of topics,” Mr. Brace says, expressing “his discriminating self.”

The initial post on thecatcritic.com is devoted to a review of the Purrfect Bistro canned tuna pate variety, which W. (Mittens) Bloomfield raves about in a roundabout way: He writes about a trip to Paris where he dined at a “familiar bistro” on a “remarkable” tuna paté — “in other words, a note-for-note recreation” of the Purrfect Bistro version.

“My take: Trip to Paris, roughly $1,350,” the post concludes. “Can of Merrick’s Purrfect Bistro Tuna Pate 5.5 ounces, only $1.69 at Petco and other independent pet specialty stores. You do the math.”

In an ad scheduled to appear in the Dining section of The New York Times on Wednesday, the cat critic is heralded this way: “He’s tough. Insightful. And not afraid to get his claws out.”

The ad also offers a review by the feline foodie of the entire Purrfect Bistro line, to which he gives a “rare” rating of five paws (out of five). “I savored the experience as one might a firm scratching behind the ears or a midnight stroll after finding the pet door open,” he writes.

The ad is liberally peppered with puns and cat jokes, among them how the character can count his memorable dinners “on one paw,” how it is difficult to keep his train of thought because “admittedly, I’m easily distracted” and how his Purrfect Bistro meal was marred “by two minor missteps to the evening, both self-inflicted: no scratching poles nearby and no warm shaft of sunlight in order to take the perfunctory after-dinner nap.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/19/business/media/this-pet-food-critic-is-as-catty-as-they-come.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

General Mills Profit Falls 28%; Costs Rise Faster Than Prices

The company maintained its full-year outlook and said it expected strong sales and profitability gains in the second half of the fiscal year. However, it cautioned that its gross margins would be lower during that time given continued cost pressures and its recent acquisition of the lower-margin Yoplait.

General Mills, which makes Cheerios cereal, Nature Valley granola and Hamburger Helper, remains one of the most popular food brands in grocery stores. But like most of its peers, it has struggled with higher costs for things as diverse as ingredients and labor. The company forecast cost increases of 10 to 11 percent for the year and has raised its prices to offset that pressure.

Net income was $444.8 million, or 67 cents a share, compared with $613.9 million, or 92 cents a share, in the period a year earlier. Excluding charges tied to its Yoplait deal and other items, earnings were 76 cents a share.

Revenue rose 14 percent, to $4.62 billion.

“We knew it was going to be a tough environment and it is, but the year is shaping up as we anticipated,” said Don Mulligan, the company’s chief financial officer.

The company, based in Minneapolis, reported that its biggest revenue increase was in its international business. General Mills, which already distributed Yoplait products in the United States, announced in July that it was acquiring a controlling stake in the company. This was the first full quarter with the yogurt brand under its ownership, which lifted its international sales 55 percent.

Revenue at the bakeries and food service division increased 12 percent, with strong sales of products like Pillsbury Mini-Pancakes and French Toast. Revenue from the company’s United States retail business increased 3 percent on strong sales of cereal and snacks, but sales of yogurt and some baking products with higher prices were weaker.

For the full year, General Mills still expects adjusted earnings of $2.59 to $2.61 a share; analysts forecast $2.61 a share.

Shares fell 32 cents, or almost 1 percent, to $39.27.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=55495f79ff949e0525c1eba9f1b560fb

General Mills 2Q Profit Falls on Higher Costs

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — General Mills’ net income fell 28 percent during the second quarter as revenue gains could not keep pace with rising costs.

The company maintained its full-year guidance and said it expects strong sales and profitability gains in the second half of the fiscal year. However, it cautioned that its gross margins would be lower during that time given continued cost pressures and its recent acquisition lower-margin Yoplait.

General Mills, which makes foods such as Cheerios cereal, Nature Valley granola and Hamburger Helper, remains one of the most popular food brands in grocery stores. But like most of its peers, it has struggled with higher costs for everything from ingredients to labor. The company forecast inflation cost increases of 10 percent to 11 percent for the year and has raised its prices to offset that pressure.

General Mills reported Tuesday that it earned $444.8 million, or 67 cents per share, for the quarter ended Nov. 27. That’s down from $613.9 million, or 92 cents per share, a year earlier. Excluding charges tied to its Yoplait deal and other items, earnings were 76 cents per share.

Analysts polled by FactSet anticipated the company would earn 79 cents per share. The miss sent shares down in trading Tuesday.

Revenue rose 14 percent to $4.62 billion. Analysts forecast revenue of $4.6 billion.

“We knew it was going to be a tough environment and it is but the year is shaping up as we anticipated,” said Don Mulligan, the company’s chief financial officer.

The company, based in Minneapolis, saw its biggest revenue jump in its international business during the quarter. General Mills, which already distributed Yoplait products in the U.S., announced in July that it was acquiring a controlling stake in international yogurt maker Yoplait. This was the first full quarter with the yogurt brand under its ownership, which boosted its international sales by 55 percent.

Revenue at its bakeries and food service division increased 12 percent with strong sales of products such as Pillsbury Mini-Pancakes and French Toast. Revenue from its U.S. retail business increased 3 percent on strong sales of cereal and snacks but it saw weaker sales of yogurt and some baking products with higher prices.

For the full year, General Mills still expects adjusted earnings of $2.59 to $2.61 per share; analysts anticipate $2.61 per share.

General Mills Inc. said it expects to drive its gains on the addition of the Yoplait business and introduction of new products, such as Dulce de Leche Cheerios and Greek yogurt. It also expects some costs to level out as the year progresses.

Edward Jones analyst Jack Russo said that while the company struggled with intense pressure this period, all signs point to business improving in the second half of the year as sales trends continue to improve, its new product lineup is strong and its price hikes are already in place.

“I think there is a lot to look forward to,” he said. “They are well trusted in the sector.”

Shares of the company fell 76 cents, about 2 percent, to $38.83 in midday trading.

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AP Business Writer Michelle Chapman contributed to this report from New York

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=fb17b76b9b1ff85021b0e12dad582f79