BETTER CROCKER TESTS DAIRY-CASE SNACKS, DESSERTS

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General Mills has extended its Betty Crocker name into the refrigerated food case with two new pre-made baked goods.

The single-serve Betty Crocker lines straddle both snack cakes and upscale desserts. The snack cakes contain eight individual portions packaged in one box, including muffins, coffee cake, chocolate-chip cookie bars and brownies. The desserts consist of individual slices of high-end prepared desserts, such as triple chocolate cake and turtle brownie pie.

The products are being test-marketed in Buffalo, N.Y., and Columbus, Ohio.

A FRESHER PRODUCT

By tapping into the dairy case, Big G is aiming to deliver a fresher product than traditional baked goods and also get a piece of the action in meal solutions by shelving its product next to milk, a traditional baked-goods accompaniment.

The test is being supported by a TV campaign created by DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago, with spots themed "Betty Crocker taste. Anytime, anyplace."

General Mills has been searching in recent years for ways to extend the brand name and its red-spoon logo beyond dessert mixes, having earlier introduced nationally Betty Crocker cereals in Cinnamon Streusel and Dutch Apple flavors. That brand hasn't made a serious dent in the category.

$25.3 MIL IN CEREAL SALES

According to Information Resources Inc., Streusel racked up only $14.2 million in sales for the 52 weeks ended Feb. 22, down 26.5% over the previous year; Dutch Apple was down 29.6%, with sales of $11.1 million.

While there's no significant competition in individual-serve cakes, the snack line is competing in a thriving $622 million market.

IRI figures show that in shelf-stable cakes, Interstate Bakeries' Hostess brand had sales of $203.2 million for the 52 weeks ended Nov. 16, up 1.4%. McKee Foods' Little Debbie had sales of $192.5 million, up 2% in the same period.

The two strongest regional competitors are Tasty Baking Co.'s Tastykake, with $59.6 million in sales, up 7.5%, followed by Drake Bakeries' Drake's, with $50.3 million, up 3.7%.

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