Citrus Express Poised for European Onslaught

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Having conquered the DRTV airwaves in the United States, the Citrus Express is taking on Europe this month with an initial $5 million media budget to support the launch in several countries.

Atlantic Promotions Inc., a $110 million consumer products manufacturer in Montreal, markets the kitchen device, whose commercials demonstrate how it sections grapefruit in the blink of an eye, but without a distressing squirt. The company is joined in its European marketing efforts by the Florida Department of Citrus, which considers the product a major breakthrough in grapefruit consumption.

"It fundamentally changes the way people consume grapefruit," said Jean Louis Chausse, marketing manager of the department's European operations. "Consumers are more likely to eat an entire grapefruit by using the Citrus Express, rather than eating one half and putting the other one in the refrigerator."

The commercial for the device demonstrates how it can section a grapefruit with the turn of a wrist, instead of using a curved grapefruit knife or serrated spoon. Although Florida's citrus department has no market research proof to support the claim that Citrus Express increases grapefruit consumption, Chausse said he has heard anecdotal evidence that the Citrus Express is leading consumers to eat more grapefruit.

The department plans to initiate its own $5 million campaign supporting grapefruit in Europe with print ads and billboards that include an endorsement for the Citrus Express. Florida's citrus industry is an $8 billion a year business for the state, the second-largest industry following tourism.

It is hoped that the device will boost the European appetite for grapefruit, which is not as popular in Europe as it is in the United States. Atlantic Promotions considers the support of the Florida citrus industry an added boon to the European launch of the Citrus Express, which has shipped about 2 million units through its TV offer in the United States and Canada this year, according to the company. Atlantic Promotions' last major "As Seen on TV" product was the Handy Bundler, a device that wraps loose items with a plastic cord.

"The Department of Citrus is going to offer heavy media support to us," said Lawrence Weinstock, vice president of international business development for Atlantic Promotions. "In a presentation to one our executives, they put on the table for us an offer of in excess of 6 billion impressions for next 12 months in Europe."

Citrus Express also was given a strong endorsement in April from Good Housekeeping magazine, which reviewed several TV products with the cooperation of ABC News program "PrimeTime Live."

Emson Corp., a DRTV marketing company in New York, has all marketing rights for the product in the United States. It plans a retail rollout later this year to leverage its heavy TV spending into other marketing channels. Its DRTV spots were shot by Concepts TV Productions Inc., a DRTV production company in Montville, NJ.

The heavy demand for the product has led to back orders in the United States, but Atlantic Promotions is trying to alleviate that problem by contracting more factories in the Far East to produce a total of 1.4 million units a month.

Partnering With European Firms

Atlantic Promotions' European strategy involves setting up a series of agreements and partnerships with other marketing companies that have expertise in specific markets.

In France, Belgium and Switzerland, the company is marketing the Citrus Express through French company Mastrad, Paris, while in Germany, it's local partner is Lurch in Hildefhein. In Greece, its distributor is Manos, while Williams Worldwide Television Inc., Ogden, UT, is handling the Citrus Express in Turkey. As of press time, Atlantic was in negotiations with distributors in Spain and Italy.

Overall, the company is confident that the Citrus Express will be as popular in Europe as it was in the United States.

"This is a product that people will use constantly and have a long life cycle," Weinstock said. "Very large commitments have been made by our European distributors."

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