Borden's pasta line backed by $16 million

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Borden Foods is finally producing tangible evidence of its strategy to become the global leader in "grain-based meal solutions," with a new line of shelf-stable pasta and sauce meals called It's Pasta Anytime.

The single-serve, microwaveable meals will debut nationwide this spring, backed by an unprecedented-for-Borden $16 million in media support come August.

Since late 1997, when CEO Peter Dunn created the Meal Solutions business unit, the privately held food marketer has been promising new-product innovation developed from the company's core pasta, sauce and bouillon businesses. The It's Pasta Anytime line is the first in what Borden is again promising will be a larger portfolio of meal solutions.


"This product is the No. 1 focus of the company and represents a new field for Borden, one that creates another substantial leg for us to stand on," said Nils Classen, senior brand manager for the Meal Solutions business unit.

The idea of pasta with a nine-month guaranteed shelf-life is a first for retailers; but, in their continuing efforts to lure consumers back from quick-service restaurants, they are more than hopeful the idea will take off.

"Even though I'm afraid [It's Pasta Anytime] could be a failure, I'm excited because it could be revolutionary," said one Midwest retail executive.

Borden started developing It's Pasta Anytime under the new management of Mr. Dunn in 1998 in an effort to address problems that its "harried cooks" target -- primarily women 18 to 49 who value home-cooked meals but don't have time to cook -- had with existing meal solution offerings at retail.


"For frozen foods, people said the serving sizes were too small, the product never looked like it did on the box; and with pasta, people complained it was very mushy, burned on the edges or cold in the middle," said Mr. Classen.

Borden's new line offers 15.25-ounce portions that carry a suggested retail price of $2.99. Clear windows on outer packaging let consumers see the individual pouches of pasta and sauce directly, and microwaveable "Smart Cooker" trays ensure even microwave cooking. The meals are ready in 3 minutes.

It's Pasta Anytime -- which includes Spaghetti-Style Pasta With Tomato Beef-Flavor Sauce and Penne With Tomato Mushroom Sauce -- will ship nationally starting April 3, and is intended for the dried pasta section to attract existing pasta eaters. The importance of the line to Borden is evidenced by the extensive TV and print campaign it's waging this August -- $13 million in TV and $2.9 million on print.


Previously, Borden has spent very little on advertising. For example, the company put only $3.3 million against its leading Classico pasta sauce brand in 1999, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Even for the new Wyler's Shakers line Borden launched in September -- supported with the first TV advertising for the brand in 20 years (AA, Sept. 6) -- CMR numbers show spending of only $600,000.

The new campaign, still being finalized with agency of record Campbell Mithun Esty, Minneapolis, will focus on the line's freshly cooked taste without the hassle, likely using a tagline similar to packaging copy that reads, "Great tasting freshly cooked meal . . . that's ready when you are."

Borden will place the Classico banner on the upright tray packaging for the new line, using it as what Mr. Classen calls "a maker's mark."

According to internal figures, sales for Borden's Classico brand totaled $131.7 million for the latest 52-week period, a 39% share of the premium pasta-sauce segment. Borden's U.S. pasta business, which includes Creamettes, Prince and R&F brands, totaled $191 million, a 16.6% share of the category in 1999.

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