Which of this years' new arrivals looks as if they're getting it right asks Karen Dempsey A long-term battle between Unilever and P&G over their recent Persil Capsules and Ariel Liqui-tabs laundry products is now under way. These are just two of this year's major brand launches ­ and we have selected eight of them to assess their potential to become this year's Star Products. Ariel Liqui-tabs beat its rival to market ­ it was on shelf at the end of March ­ and has notched up value sales of nearly £2.7m up to May 20. Persil Capsules' figure of £151,000 was captured just after it reached the shelves, so it is far too early to ascertain who will win this new laundry race. Sainsbury buyer Helen Burch says early indications are that "consumers are moving more from powder tablets to the new format than from bottles of liquid" so it will be interesting to watch if long term the new products cannibalise the brands' tablets. Mars took the brand equity of Bounty and launched the brand's first extension (since Bounty ice cream in 1989). Positioned as a treat version of the countline, Bounty Calapuno has all the elements ­ big brand and big budget (£9m) ­ to succeed. Since its advertising broke on March 4, the new brand has achieved sales of just under £3m ­ with sales peaking in April at £1.2m (around Mothers' Day and Easter). Mars trade relations manager Sam McElligott says Bounty Calapuno "has been a huge success for Mars and our retail partners" and has gone some way "to developing the all-year-round potential of boxed chocolates and growing this area of our business". Danone Activ' ­ bottled water with calcium­ arrived at the beginning of the year buoyed by a £9m ad budget. It has made a noticeable splash in the market. Len Hooper, senior buyer at Budgens, says Danone Activ' "is performing relatively well for what is essentially a new category [sales are over £4.5m]. Volumes are steady and the product justifies shelf space in a very competitive area." He adds: "It will take time for the concept to really grab hold but it will definitely not be the last of its type. And being the first on the market means everyone else will have to work that much harder and spend that much more to break in'." One product that found it particularly hard to break in was Olivio with butter. Though seemingly equipped to capitalise on the success of the original Olivio, the variant did not take off and with sales of £1.1m since launch at the end of last year it is about to be axed. A Unilever Bestfoods spokeswoman says: "Olivio with butter hasn't done well. Sometimes it's difficult to know the rhyme or reason why, but it didn't work." What has become increasingly crucial in NPD is the relationship with the trade. That means involving retail partners long before the official launch date. This is a lesson T&T Beverages will have learned after it arrived in the market with its high profile sponsorship of ITV's Popstars at the beginning of the year. Budgens' Hooper recalls: "The Popstars programme was brought forward by six months and the product was not ready in time. This meant the supplier was running round to multiple grocers with a presentation the week before Christmas announcing a hot' new product due to be launched in January. On the plus side, the product delivers qualitatively. Unfortunately too little is made of its taste assets as the main focus has been on its sponsorship." Birds Eye Wall's, on the other hand, worked long and hard with the trade to prepare the ground for Enjoy!, arguably the company's most ambitious launch ever. With backing of £20m, the plan is to turn round the concept of frozen food by offering upmarket ready meals. Sales since launch at the beginning of February have chalked up £7.7m. The complete meals take the lion's share (£5.1m), followed by accompaniments at £1.5m. But disappointing sales of the pasta sauces products (just over £1m) means they will be withdrawn. But two new complete meals are planned for September. The product showing all the signs of becoming a star is Kinder Bueno from Ferrero. Since nationwide launch on February 14, its sales figures have reached £9.5m. A mix of above and below the line activity ­ a marketing budget of £4.5m, TV ads and a sampling campaign ­ is helping establish the brand. But the real secret of its success is its relationship with the trade. It has just won Best New Product in the Today's Group Supplier Awards for Excellence. And John Baines, wholesale senior controller at The Today's Group, says Ferrero sets an example. "Ferrero involved us over 15 months ago and we were able to address some issues before Kinder Bueno was launched. "They listened to what we said and took into account our comments regarding various trade issues and acted upon them ­ such as addressing the issue of margin, a no-go area for the likes of Cadbury, Nestlé Rowntree and Mars. "Too many suppliers come to us with the finished article, without any trade consultation, and their marketing plans are too far down the line to change. "Other suppliers could learn by what they did." {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}