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Kraft's Planters Heads for the Peanut Butter Aisle

Kraft’s Planters unit finally heads for the peanut butter aisle
Mr. Peanut's hapless body double, Doug
Mr. Peanut's hapless body double, Doug

Mr. Peanut has a stunt double. Sporting a goatee, aviator sunglasses, and outsize confidence, “Doug” performs death-defying feats deemed too dangerous for the venerable peanut pitchman. Unfortunately, Doug’s exploits always end the same way: with him getting crushed and turned into peanut butter. Marketers at Kraft Foods hope Doug’s misadventures will whet consumer appetites for the company’s entry into the crowded U.S. peanut butter market. In what may be the most overdue brand extension in history, Kraft is using the 100-year-old Planters name to speed growth of its mature grocery business. Since supermarket shelves are already crowded with brands such as market leader Jif, made by J.M. Smucker, Unilever’s Skippy, and ConAgra Foods’ Peter Pan, as well as private-label peanut butters, the move carries risks. “They might have a long road ahead to establish themselves,” says ConAgra Chief Executive Officer Gary Rodkin. “We’ll continue to make it a sticky business for them.”

Don’t look for choosy mothers or flying boys who never grow old in Planters’ marketing. Kraft is targeting adults, who consume two-thirds of the $1.8 billion of peanut butter sold in the U.S. each year, says Triona Schmelter, Planters’ senior director of marketing. Kraft was looking for an adult mascot and settled on the fumbling Doug, voiced in Web ads by Kevin Dillon in an homage to the hapless Johnny Drama character he played on HBO’s Entourage series. “Peanut butter was a natural extension,” Schmelter says, adding that “most other brands focus on moms and kids.”