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Sun, Jun 20, 2004 - Page 12 News List

Quietly, the twin towers disappear from label

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

A familiar saw-toothed view of the New York skyline on a product with deep New York roots has quietly been altered. How it came to be changed is a story of corporate strategizing -- and of deciding to ease some customers' painful memories of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Half-asleep coffee drinkers may not pay much attention to what is on the coffee can, but in redesigning its product, Chock full o'Nuts removed the World Trade Center.

For years, the twin towers had stood against a taxi-yellow sky on the Chock full o'Nuts label, as did the Empire State Building and the Citicorp Center. But about a year ago, Chock full o'Nuts decided it was time to do something to set itself apart from brands like Maxwell House and Folgers.

So it added a new flavor -- "100 percent Arabica New York roast" -- and began looking into a makeover. "The existing packaging was a bit antiquated," said Angie Hancock, a brand manager for Chock full o'Nuts, a unit of the Sara Lee Corp. "It definitely resonated with an older consumer but was not doing enough to attract younger consumers."

And, she said, "there was the issue with the twin towers."

They were at the far right of the skyline on the old label. Hancock said that in the days after Sept. 11, "we received calls about whether we're going to change the packaging immediately or not."

By last year, when the company hired market researchers to question consumers about possible new labels, the trade center was "a very polarizing issue," she said.

"It was split 50-50 between people wanting to see it there, and then people wanting to not see it there," she said. "It would either remind them of what it looked like, a sense of nostalgia, or it would be a reminder of a tragedy. We decided it was too divisive."

The new yellow-on-yellow skyline replaced a black landscape and taxi-yellow background, and the buildings are more recognizable than on the old can. The triangle top of the Citicorp Center looks more like itself than the oddly lopped-off old shape, for example.

Chock full o'Nuts began phasing in the new design at the beginning of this year. Hancock said the last of the old-label cans were vacuum-packed in March. The last of those cans are disappearing from supermarket shelves, although some can still be found around New York City.

"We can't control what stock a retailer may have in the warehouse," Hancock said. "It takes a certain amount of time for that inventory to sell through."

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