- The Washington Times - Friday, May 21, 2004

CINCINNATI — Hungry? Pringles has a few words for you.Procter & Gamble Co. soon will print trivia questions and answers on its Pringles snack chips, using ink made of blue or red food coloring.

The first batch of the printed Pringles potato crisps to reach select store shelves next month will display a series of jokes, “fun facts,” “animal facts” and other trivia. An example: What Shakespeare play is about the summer solstice? “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

In August, the chips will pose trivia questions from Hasbro Inc.’s “Trivial Pursuit Junior” game, under a partnership with the Pawtucket, R.I., toy maker.

“We think kids are going to love it,” said Jamie Egasti, Procter & Gamble’s vice president for North American snacks. “It’s a great way to add fun to the lunch.”

Jack Trout, president of Trout & Partners, a marketing strategy firm in Greenwich, Conn., said he can see the appeal for children, but questioned whether that would be enough.

“It’s a gimmicky idea. Will kids eat more Pringles because there’s messages on it? Maybe. Will it become a talking point among kids? Maybe,” he said.

“It’s a strange idea. To me, it brings a lot of strange perceptual baggage along with it — ‘Oh my God, they’re running my potato chips through a printing press.’ That’s kind of icky.”

Actually, P&G; will send the chips along a conveyor belt under a special printer that sprays on the trivia messages. The question is printed on the chip and the answer is on the same side, but printed upside down.

The company will offer Pringles without the messages as well.

Each chip in a canister will have a different message because test panels of children and mothers told P&G; marketers that duplicate messages in one box wouldn’t be interesting, Mr. Egasti said.

“I think it’ll be a real hit with young people,” said William Steele, an analyst with Banc of America Securities who follows P&G.;

It is possible that the chips someday could be printed with advertisements, although no such decision has been made, Mr. Egasti said.

Pringles chips, introduced in the early 1970s, are sold in 140 countries and are one of the P&G; brands that bring in $1 billion in annual sales. Mr. Egasti declined to reveal the company’s sales projections for printed Pringles.

P&G; worked with its suppliers to develop the food-printing technology and plans to apply for various patents, Mr. Egasti said.

Jim Gawley, vice president of business development for the Food Institute, a trade organization in Elmwood Park, N.J., said he couldn’t think of a similar product.

Pringles chips in various colors hit the market last year. General Mills Inc. sells a Fruit Roll-Ups product that can be pressed to the skin to leave a tattoo before the consumer eats it.

The H.J. Heinz Co. saw ketchup sales soar when it introduced its signature product in funky colors, starting with “Blastin’ Green” in October 2000.

The company sold more than 25 million bottles of colored ketchup and last year controlled 60 percent of the American ketchup market, a record high for the company.

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