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Coca-Cola presents new bottles at annual consumer analyst conference

BY Diana Alickaj

BOCA RATON, Fla. Coca-Cola Co. is presenting a new line of contoured aluminum bottles to be tested at the annual Consumer Analyst Group of New York Conference.

Displaying this new line of bottles at the conference will help the company in deciding if it wants to go ahead with the new design. According to published reports, the new concept includes 250 ml bottles offered in red, black and silver, which would be used for regular Coke, Coke Zero and Diet Coke, respectively.

According to a spokesman for Coca Cola, the new bottles are just one of the many ideas the company is piloting. Therefore, the conference is just one factor in many for deciding whether it wants to fully go ahead with the new line of bottles.

The new bottles have already been featured at select events and nightclubs, but are not yet available for retail sale.

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Snack packs fall below 100 calories

BY Jim Wright

NEW YORK There’s a new magic number in portion-control land: 90.Also 80. And 70. Or even 60.

Packaged-food giants have discovered that calorie-conscious snackers who turned 100-calorie packs into a $200 million annual gold mine are getting bored with 100. So the bar is falling.

Quaker is making 90 the new 100, as it rolls out a string of 90-calorie treats.

The products are Quaker’s fastest-growing line, says Quaker Foods president Mark Schiller. “What I like most about 90 is that it one-ups 100.”

In 2007, 82 single-serve products touting fewer than 100 calories hit the market vs. seven in 2003, says Tom Vierhile, director of Datamonitor’s Productscan Online. “You sound like you’re a consumer advocate by ratcheting down the number of calories, but all you’re doing is helping your bottom line.”

Quaker, for example has introduced 11 single-serve products at 90 calories since 2007. Last month, it rolled out three Mini Delights and two granola bars.

Kelloggs “bull’s-eye” for snack packs is still 100 calories, but consumers will see “continued growth of portion-control packs” of all sizes, says Michael Allen, senior vice president of snacks.

With new Special K Bliss bars at 90 calories and Grab ‘n Go cereal packs as low as 70, Kellogg sells 150 portioned snacks.

New from ConAgra are Hunt’s Snack Pack Fat Free Pudding at 80 calories and David Seeds Pumpkin Seeds at 90.

Kraft just rolled out LiveActive Natural Mozzarella Cheese Snacks in 80-calorie sticks. Its Jet-Puffed marshmallows are sold in 90-calorie pouches.

General Mills is introducing Fiber One yogurt from Yoplait, with 80 calories.

Hershey’s low-cal offer: 60-calorie Hershey Sticks come in four flavors.

From Del Monte Pet Products, there are Pup-Peroni 50-calorie packs.

They’re a “guilt-free” snack, says Matthew Park, Del Monte’s marketing vice president. Just as 100-calorie packs help people, he says, 50-calorie packs help dogs cut calories and live “healthier.”

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Nestle expected to release record sales results

BY Jim Wright

ZURICH , Switzerland Despite rising costs for such ingredients as flour and milk, Nestle is expected to break sales records when it releases results on Thursday. Markets will be seeking assurances that a push by the world’s largest food group, into healthy foods and strong name brands will pay off, as global economic growth cools, but food inflation stays hot.

“Nestle has a well-balanced portfolio where its brand diversity means that there is no major reliance on a few key categories and slower-performing brands are offset by strong performers,” Bear Stearns analysts said in a note. “We expect Nestle’s high brand density to continue to increase going forward due to the strength and growth profile of its big brands.”

Nestle, which makes Nescafe coffee and KitKat chocolate bars, has managed to increase profits and profitability despite record prices for key food inputs such milk and cocoa.

Nestle’s strong brands, which include Buitoni pasta, Maggi soups and Friskies cat food, are expected to command loyalty from consumers in rich countries. But rising prices for food in developing markets may be approaching the point where some consumers retreat, experts say.

Investors will also look for any indications Nestle aims to sell its 75 percent stake in U.S. contact lens company Alcon or its 29 percent stake in French cosmetics group L’Oreal. The Alcon stake has a market value of about $34 billion, and the L’Oreal stake about $22 billion.

Nestle is seen posting an 11 percent increase in net profit to 10.22 billion Swiss francs ($9.33 billion), according to the average of a Reuters poll of 14 analysts. It is also expected to break the 100-billion-franc barrier for the first time with annual sales of 107 billion, the poll showed.

Nestle chief executive officer Peter Brabeck has said the group will reach its organic sales growth target of 5 to 6 percent in 2008.

Brabeck, who will pass the chief executive officer baton to Paul Bulcke later this year and remain as chairman, has said the group has the wherewithal to weather an economic slowdown in the United States, where Nestle generates around 30 percent of its profit.

Analysts see food groups’ pricing power—their ability to raise prices without killing demand—as perhaps the single best indicator of how they will fare in an environment of unprecedented food inflation.

In general, the weaker the brand name and customer loyalty to that brand, the more difficult it is to raise prices.

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