"French-fry producers have had difficulty replicating the fast-food experience at home," says Mr. Ginkel, general manager of Ore-Ida brand marketing. "Research showed that shoestring potatoes did not get close to the taste of fast-food fries. The challenge was to replicate [that] in the oven at home."
Who better to have in the kitchen than Ore-Ida Foods, the H.J. Heinz Co. unit that produces Tater Tots and Golden Crinkles?
In October 1992, the marketer introduced Fast Fries nationally. And its dollar sales for the 13 weeks ended April 30 exceeded $6 million, making Fast Fries the company's No. 4-selling item.
"This product met a lot of consumers' longstanding demand," says Mr. Ginkel, 38.
Advertising-initially from DDB Needham Worldwide, New York, and then assigned to spinoff Berlin Wright Cameron-focuses on aligning the product with fast-food french fries.
Positioning lines such as "So crisp you won't believe they were baked in the oven" and "They're that good ... really," play on the cynicism consumers have when it comes to frozen french fries, he adds.
A database-marketing program also was part of the recipe.
One TV spot featured a closeup on a fast-food restaurant speaker, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. A voice says, "Can I take your order?"
Says Mr. Ginkel: "It shows symbolically, and tongue-in-cheek, that a fast-food restaurant is not the only place to get crispy, golden, fast-food french fries."