Battling BBQ

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The race is on between ConAgra Foods and General Mills to beef up the emerging refrigerated prepared BBQ segment.

ConAgra's ASE Consumer Products division aims to continue its strides against General Mills' leading Lloyd's Barbeque brand with the first TV campaign for the KC Masterpiece BBQ it launched a little more than a year ago.

With consumers clamoring for convenient meal offerings, the heat-and-serve shredded BBQ segment grew 44% to $85 million for the 52 weeks ended July 22, according to ASE data.

General Mills dominated the field with the Lloyd's brand it acquired in January of 1999, growing it to $45 million in supermarket sales for tubs of shredded BBQ meats and another $50 million in sales for ready-to-heat BBQ ribs over the past year. Now, ASE wants to challenge General Mills' leadership in the growing segment and expand its product's $24 million in sales by touting the line's combination of venerable BBQ sauce brand KC Masterpiece with its own Armour meats in a TV campaign this fall. ASE licensed the KC Masterpiece name from Clorox Co., which markets the BBQ sauce under that brand.

"We have a great sauce brand and a terrific meat brand that consumers know and trust, so we have a great deal of opportunity ahead to grow this into a sizeable business," said Maryruth Wilson, VP-general manager of meals at ASE.

The new spot from Grey Global Group's Grey Worldwide, New York, features a variety of men, women and children with faces smeared with BBQ sauce. A voice-over boasts of "the finest Armour meats ... smothered and dripping in thick, rich KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce." The campaign will air in spot markets this fall and around the Super Bowl. Ms. Wilson expects to get near-national distribution by December. The budget for the campaign wasn't disclosed.

General Mills spent $2.2 million in media on Lloyd's in the launch year for the product 1999, and less than $1 million last year. Interpublic Group of Cos.' Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis, handles.

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