(FORTUNE Magazine) – INFORMATION RESOURCES INC. Gian Fulgoni, the Welsh-born CEO of IRI, makes no apologies for his company's brash pursuit of new business. ''It's been a big part of how we've been able to grow shareholder value,'' he says, ''and it reflects our entrepreneurial roots.'' Fulgoni and his team have led the Chicago company into two of its biggest markets: analyzing nationwide scanner data on consumer products and producing computer software. In the battle for customers, upstart IRI is making a serious run at A.C. Nielsen, a subsidiary of Dun & Bradstreet and the goliath of marketing research. Analysts say the two companies almost evenly split the U.S. market for scanning data services. Slightly more than half IRI's revenues come from Infoscan, its marketing data service. Each week several thousand grocery, drug, and department stores deliver the product data collected by their scanners. IRI sorts, analyzes, and verifies product price and volume, and then delivers final Infoscan sales information to its customers via tape, disk, or on-line service. The data include details on how sales promotions and coupons performed for specific products. PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, and other customers use the data to follow the marketing and sales patterns of their own -- and competitors' -- goods. IRI has its sights on other markets as well. The company's fastest-growing business is its line of database management software called Express. Customers can use it to run their own analyses and do their own sorting of Infoscan data. Express is also popular with companies not in the consumer goods industry -- such as US West and Cigna -- that use it to manage their own databases. Robert Jachim, an analyst at Barrington Research, expects IRI's net income in 1994 to surge 48%, to $41 million, on a 27% rise in revenues, to $442 million. The stock traded recently on Nasdaq at $36.63, or 25 times Jachim's estimate of 1994 earnings per share. IRI's fiercest battles with Nielsen may lie in expanding Infoscan overseas, where Nielsen still dominates. IRI has opened four European offices -- in Britain, Germany, France, and Holland -- and plans to add several others next year. Its strategy: to provide more data to existing multinational clients and to pursue new customers.

DONNKENNY This New York City apparel company has gone from near bust to bustling. After the biggest loss in its 50-year history ($12.5 million in 1985), Donnkenny was dangerously close to collapse. Richard Rubin, a ten-year sales veteran with the company, got the job of turning things around. After an aggressive downsizing, he returned the company to profitability the next year; midway through the process he was named CEO. Today Donnkenny sells its three main lines of clothes in 20,000 department, specialty, and mass-merchant stores nationwide. The company makes more than 90% of its garments at ten Virginia plants. Its core label features women's sportswear and sleepware and accounts for 50% of revenues. The fastest-selling line is Mickey & Co., Disney-licensed clothes for men, women, and children. A third label features Warner Brothers cartoon characters. John Pickler, an analyst at Wheat First Securities, expects net income to surge 55% in 1994, to $9.7 million, on a 15% increase in revenues, to $168 million. The stock sold on Nasdaq recently at $19.38, or 13 times Pickler's estimate of 1994 earnings per share. Donnkenny went public in June at $13.25 per share; it has worked off 54% of the $58.7 million in debt it took on in a 1989 LBO.

XYPLEX In the world of computer networking, Xyplex provides an essential link between systems. The company, in Boxborough, Massachusetts, designs and manufactures communications servers -- devices that enable low-speed terminals to access and share data in high-speed networks. The servers can connect computers in an office or over much larger areas. Last year Xyplex expanded into new markets with products known as intra-networking hubs -- computerized wiring systems that perform server functions and route and control all data flowing on the network. The hubs now provide half the company's revenues. Customers include telecommunications companies as well as those in the financial and health industries. More than 25% of Xyplex's sales are overseas. Frederick Ziegel, an analyst at the New York City brokerage Punk Ziegel & Knoell, expects net income in 1994 to increase 23%, to $10.9 million, on a 28% rise in revenues, to $97.5 million. The stock sold recently on Nasdaq at $16.75, or ten times Ziegel's estimate of 1994 earnings per share.