Nabisco shelves gifts book

The Nabisco Direct catalog of branded gifts has become the victim of its $8.7 billion parent firm’s new corporate strategy. In May, at the order of Nabisco president/CEO James Kilts, a former General Foods and Kraft executive who in January took over the snack foods giant, the company decided to focus exclusively on manufacturing and marketing food. So after the release of a summer clearance catalog, Nabisco Direct will fold.

“We’ve been doing a lot of reorganization within the company,” says spokeswoman Ann Smith, who won’t provide numbers but says that the catalog unit was not losing money. “We’re a snack food company, and we’re looking at the portfolio of products we produce and how they fit best into where we’d like to take the company.” The decision was that a nonfood entity such as Nabisco Direct wasn’t a strategic fit, she says. “But that’s not to say we won’t one day bring it back.”

The catalog, which sells cookie jars, milk bottles, snack tins, and other items bearing the logos of such Nabisco brands as Oreo and Planters Peanuts, “did well in its three-year existence,” Smith says, increasing its sales each year.

But whatever those sales increases were, they were likely small change to a company the size of Nabisco. “When you have a piece of business that’s not going to do multimillions, it’s an easy target when any big company has to restructure,” says Katie Muldoon, of Sugarloaf Key, FL, catalog consultancy Muldoon & Baer. “Companies like Nabisco look around and see what seems to be disposable: the catalog.”

For now, the three-person staff of Nabisco Direct, including catalog manager Michele Gilbert, will be moved to other jobs within Nabisco. The company has no plans to retain any of the branded gift merchandise, Smith says.

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