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Healthy foods and accessories feed pet industry

BY Doug Desjardins

SAN DIEGO The annual Global Pet Expo opened in San Diego Feb. 14 with thousands of new products debuting to feed the growing pet industry. Show sponsor the American Pet Product Manufacturer’s Association estimates pet product sales jumped 5 percent in 2007 to $40.8 billion and are expected to increase again in 2008.

On the floor of the San Diego Convention Center, more than 750 exhibitors—along with dozens of dogs, cats and the occasional eagle and owl—are showcasing new products with pet accessories and healthy foods two of the hottest categories.

Cott Beverages is making its first foray into the pet business with its FortiFido water for dogs. The water comes in four flavors with a unique blend of vitamins and supplements for dogs with different needs.

“We’re making our big national launch right now in pet specialty stores, grocers and mass merchants,” said Cott director of innovation Charles Calise.

Sales of healthy foods have thrived since the tainted food scare last fall that forced suppliers to recall hundreds of products made in China.

“We saw our sales rocket after that incident,” said Norman Levitz of Wagatha’s, a Vermont company that makes organic biscuits for dogs.

Pet clothing is another growing category. Jakks Pacific Pets unveiled its new line of Doggie Disguises to dress pets for Halloween. And Gramercy Distributors showcased its new Cool Vest, a light vest with a waterproof lining that keeps dogs cool in hot weather.

The Global Pet Expo—the largest gathering of pet suppliers and retailers in the U.S.—will end Feb. 16. The show is moving from San Diego to Orlando in 2009.

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Coke Zero to debut NASCAR TV spots during Daytona broadcast

BY Diana Alickaj

ATLANTA Coke Zero’s new NASCAR ad that actively stumped the famous drivers of NASCAR, is set to air on Sunday, Feb. 17 at the Daytona 500, which the Fox network will be broadcasting.

The advertisement, which includes actors posing as Coca-Cola brand managers, is an extension of Coke Zero’s 2007 campaign in which “Coca-Cola managers” tried to sue their coworkers on the basis of “taste infringement,” because Coke Zero tastes so much like Coca Cola. As Coke Zero is now the official soft drink of NASCAR, this year’s ads will feature 30-second and 60-second spots of the same Coca-Cola brand managers now extending their passion against Coke Zero to NASCAR’s fastest drivers.

Labeled “NASCAR sabotage,” the ad shows the Coca-Cola brand managers trying to convince the NASCAR racers that they should “enjoy the track for longer” and “throw a race” so Coke Zero would not end up in the winner’s circle. The drivers featured in the commercial apparently did not realize that it was, in fact, a commercial, and were stunned by their suggestions.

Two-Time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion, Tony Stewart explained his confusion: “At first, the fake Coca-Cola brand guys came across as really serious, so we were trying to be polite and figure out what they were thinking, but the more they talked the crazier their ideas became until it got to be pretty unbelievable. While it was an unusual experience, Coke Zero is a fun brand and this was a clever way to shoot this commercial.”

The ad will feature top NASCAR drivers Greg Biffle, Jeff Burton, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, Mark Martin, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Petty, Eliott Sadler, Tony Stewart and Michael Waltrip.

The 60-second version of the ad is set to air on the special Daytona 500 ad showcase on Nascar.com, which will begin at 7 a.m., and the 30- and 60-second versions will appear through cinemas and television throughout the racing season. All ads are currently posted at cokezero.com and NASCAR.com.

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NECCO gets help from Mass. governor, will remain open

BY DSN STAFF

REVERE Candy hearts maker NECCO will stay open thanks to help from Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s help in finalizing a deal with a buyer.

The candy company, which relocated from Cambridge to Revere a few years ago, was considering shutting down if it could not find a buyer, state officials said.

But after NECCO, also known as the New England Confectionary Co., found a potential match, Patrick administration officials helped close the deal, mediating months of complex negotiations.

Officials said no state grants or tax incentives were needed, just help from the Massachusetts Office of Business Development in negotiating. Bethesda, Md.-based American Capital Strategies closed the deal late last year after eight months of talks.

Without a buyer, NECCO might have had to shutter operations, a move that would have cost 650 jobs, officials said.

“It’s great to know that an iconic classic like NECCO is staying right here in the commonwealth,” said Kofi Jones, a spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development.

 “There were times when it didn’t look like it was going to work,” said Dominic Antonellis, NECCO’s chief executive officer. “People from the Massachusetts Office of Business Development helped me hold people together and keep the deal strong.”

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