Kraft Foods to launch ad campaign aimed at boosting sales of its salad dressings by expanding its use into dips, marinades, spreads, other recipes

NEW YORK , May 8, 2012 () – Salad dressing on your fish? How about on your stir fry?

In a new ad campaign launching next week, Kraft Foods Inc. is hoping to boost sales by encouraging consumers to use its dressings in a limitless variety of dishes — as a dip, a spread, a marinade or perhaps a glaze. In case the message isn't clear, the packaged foods giant is even rebranding its lineup of dressings as "Anything Dressing."

Of course, consumers have long used salad dressings on more than just greens; think crudités and Ranch dressing or Reuben sandwiches and Russian dressing. But executives at Kraft saw the potential to significantly rev up sales after noticing the trend spreading in inventive new ways in recent years, said Chris McClement, Kraft's director of dressings.

In consumer research last summer, for instance, McClement said he was surprised to learn that Kraft vinaigrettes were being used as marinades for seafood. Kraft estimates that dishes other than salad account for 20 percent of its salad dressing use. That's up from 10 percent a decade ago.

The push to make salad dressing a more universal condiment comes at a time of steady but limited growth in the category; salad dressing sales totaled $1.52 billion in the past year, up about 2.3 percent from a year ago, or 5 percent from five years ago, according to SymphonyIRI, a Chicago-based market research firm that tracked sales at supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandise outlets, excluding Wal-Mart.

Outside the salad bowl, the most common uses for dressing are vegetables, chicken, sandwiches, potatoes and pizza — in that order, according to The NPD Group, a market researcher that continually tracks consumer eating trends. The most popular dressing overall is Ranch, followed by Italian and French.

Kraft isn't the only one looking to give sales a boost by getting thinking beyond the bowl. Hidden Valley Foods this month is also rolling out its "Hidden Valley for Everything" in Ranch and Ranch Salsa, which come in bottles with labels that declare them "The New Ketchup."

"We figured it's already happening, so we're providing a better way for people to do it," said David Kargas, a spokesman for Hidden Valley, which is a unit of The Clorox Co.

The only difference in the dressing will be a thicker consistency, which Kargas said makes for a better dip. He said the new packaging "without question" will get people to use dressing in new ways.

At Kraft, it's only the message, rather than the recipe, that's changing. Next week, the Northfield, Ill., company will begin airing a TV ad that comically depicts the aftermath of a romantic breakup between a head of lettuce and a bottle of dressing.

The lettuce is shown in various stages of post-breakup grief — standing forlornly in front of an open refrigerator, crying alone on a couch in the blue glow of a TV and passed out on a bed with empty pints of ice cream strewn about. The spot ends with the lettuce staring across the street into a brightly lit apartment, where a bottle of Honey Mustard dressing is dancing amid a riot of foods including a roasted chicken, a hot dog and a kabob.

The spot was developed by the Los Angeles ad agency Being. Michael Blaney, creative director for the ad, said the concept stemmed from a simple premise; when thinking of all the new ways dressing was being used, he wondered, "How would lettuce feel about that?"

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