Donna Berry

As ghosts and goblins start adorning shopping malls and school windows, parents with a healthful eye seek out alternatives to the traditional sugar-laden sweet given in response to "Trick or treat?"

Though it's unlikely that goodie bags will be filled with dairy foods this coming Halloween, milk marketers are doing a wonderful job of formulating "new" flavored milks, as well as promoting milk as a healthful treat.

Take, for example, Kraft Foods, Northfield, Ill., a company that recognizes the value of milk. Kraft is now imprinting the popular "got milk?" trademark on one of its most popular cookies-the Nabisco® Oreo®.

"The 'got milk?'-Oreo union reflects America's passion for dunking Oreo cookies in milk," says Stephen Chriss, associate director of consumer promotions, biscuit division, at Kraft. "Oreo and milk is a ritual that American families treasure."

Jeff Manning, executive dir., California Milk Processor Board (CMPB), adds, "Few campaigns have entered the American vernacular like 'got milk?'"

The CMPB was established in 1993 to make milk more competitive and increase milk consumption in California. Awareness of "got milk?" is more than 90% nationally and it is considered one of the most important and successful campaigns in history. "got milk?" is a federally registered trademark that has been licensed by the national dairy boards since 1995. The CMPB is funded by all California milk processors and administered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

On the opposite side of the country, Bravo! Foods International Corp., North Palm Beach, Fla., has been very active with rolling out new milks and marketing techniques to target key milk-consuming audiences. Back in February, Bravo entered into a license agreement with Marvel Enterprises, Inc., New York, to use its world-famous Super Heroes® to promote Bravo's branded milk products. Marvel's popular characters include Spider-Man™, Wolverine™, the Incredible Hulk™, Daredevil™ and Captain America™.

As part of the agreement, Bravo enhanced its already vitamin-enriched milk by incorporating particular attributes associated with each Marvel Super Hero in its product. For example, Bravo adds omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E and choline to its Spider-Man Slammers Chocolate Web shake to promote brain power, an attribute long associated with the popular web-slinger. Similarly, Bravo's Captain America vanilla shake contains blue vanilla to coordinate with the package's red, white and blue patriotic colors. The beverage also includes 20% of the recommended daily allowance of 10 essential vitamins as a "super serum" to reflect Captain America's superior athletic ability.

"Marvel has done an exemplary job of building high brand awareness of its diversified character portfolio," says Mike Edwards, Bravo's executive v.p., sales. "The huge box office successes of Spider-Man, The X-Men, The Hulk and Daredevil motion pictures have fueled an even stronger following in the demographic group that Bravo is targeting. Our affiliation with Marvel's Super Heroes should significantly enhance our product exposure to a wider group of consumers."

Russell Brown, executive v.p. of Marvel's consumer products group adds, "Bravo's ability to customize this line of beverages to reflect the attributes of our characters was extremely enticing."

More recently, Bravo introduced No Sugar Added Fortified Slim Slammers®. Made with 1% low-fat milk, the new flavored milks are promoted as having half the carbohydrates, half the calories and one-third more calcium than regular milk.

Initially available in two flavors-Chocolate Fudge and French Vanilla-Slim Slammers are offered in attractive 16-oz extended shelflife (ESL) bottles. Slim Slammers offers all the benefits of milk, plus the addition of 20% to 45% of the recommended daily allowance of 10 essential vitamins not normally found in milk.

"With the ever-growing national epidemic of obesity and the associated medical risks, the Slim Slammers line is the ideal alternative to sugar-laden carbonated beverages and fruit drinks," says Roy Warren, Bravo's CEO. "Perhaps one of the most alarming statistics comes from the Centers for Disease Control, which has reported that one of every three children born in the United States in the year 2000 will develop type 2 diabetes. What's particularly disturbing is that this can be prevented with diet and lifestyle changes. Drinking low-fat milk as part of a reduced-calorie diet provides calcium and protein that support healthy weight loss. Slim Slammers takes that a step further by adding great taste, increased calcium and 10 essential vitamins, which makes this milk a complete package."

To underscore its commitment to the fight against diabetes, Bravo has teamed up with one of the nation's leading centers for diabetes research, the Diabetes Research Institute, which will have its logo featured on Slim Slammers packaging.

What's in store for Bravo's future? The company just announced that it has signed a licensing agreement with Masterfoods USA, the confectionery and snack food division of Mars Inc., McLean, Va., to produce, market and sell Milky Way®, Starburst® and 3 Musketeers® single-serve, fortified milk products under its Slammers brand.

The new fortified milk products, which will be sold in 14-oz single-serve ESL bottles, will reflect each confectionery product's distinctive taste. The Slammers Milky Way product will be made with reduced-fat fortified milk with the rich, creamy, mouth-watering taste of a Milky Way bar.

Just what does a Milky Way taste like? Interestingly, Milky Way was the first product from Mars, created in 1923 and introduced publicly in 1926. Mars's original concept was to "put a chocolate malted drink in a candy bar," and so devised a concoction of chocolate malt-flavored nougat and caramel covered in milk chocolate. This flavor is now being transferred to milk! Slammers Starburst will be a blend of low-fat milk and natural juice to produce its famous burst of natural fruit flavor and live up to the Starburst "Isn't life juicy!™" slogan. The first flavors of the Starburst drinks will be strawberry, peach and orange.

Slammers 3 Musketeers will be made with low-fat milk, but will have no added sugar to combine a great nutritional, guilt-free beverage with the terrific flavor of a 3 Musketeers Bar, which is chocolate-flavored nougat covered in milk chocolate.

"Clearly, these are legendary and some of the most popular and recognized brands in the nation," says Warren. "Each of the Slammers milk products will feature packaging that matches the candy brand it is associated with."

The products will be available at convenience stores nationwide in late 2004. Products will hit shelves in grocery stores in 2005. Suggested retail price is $1.49 each. More flavors will be introduced in spring or summer 2005.

"The Masterfoods licensing program has helped fans of some of America's top confectionery brands enjoy their favorite products in a variety of ways, and Slammers is an exciting addition to our product line," says Mike Tolkowsky, senior v.p., marketing at Masterfoods.

Dean Foods, Dallas, and Nestle USA Inc., Glendale, Calif., have also rolled out new single-serve flavored milk products. Dean now offers Hershey's® No Sugar Added Chocolate Milk, while Nestle has Nestle® Buncha Banana reduced-fat milk and Mocha reduced-fat milk, which is made with the company's Nescafe® coffee.

In the spirit of the approaching ghoulish doorbell-ringing day, Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB) has been very busy promoting milk. To help all mummies remember that chocolate milk is not only a treat, it's a healthful treat, WMMB is offering retailers a variety of "mummified" promotional items that talk up chocolate milk. Retailers can display a 5-ft tall mummy peering over a tombstone with the Halloween advice of: Be a Good Mummy-Buy Chocolate Milk. In the mummy's extended hand, he holds a plastic jug of chocolate milk. His red-lighted, blinking eyes send a signal to stop-and buy.

Trick or treat? Milk . . . it's the best treat. And that's no trick!