DIXIE SETS REUSABLE DISPOSABLES: FORT JAMES IS READYING RINSE & REUSE PLATES

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Fort James Corp. seeks to bridge the gap between china and Chinet with a "reusable" disposable plate.

Dixie Rinse & ReUse Disposable Stoneware, being shipped to retailers in January, is a rare premium-priced offering that aims both at value-conscious and upscale consumers. The new line of "semi-permanent" plates and bowls will be backed with $10 million in TV, radio and print ads.

The campaign breaks in March from DDB Worldwide, New York.

Made from a combination of polypropylene and crushed stone, Dixie Rinse & ReUse dishes can go through a dishwasher up to 20 times and handle temperatures up to 250 degrees.

The line sells for 20% to 67% more per dish than Fort James' existing Dixie Ultrastrong plates, a unit cost similar to Solo Co.'s Solo brand and Keyefiber Co.'s Chinet.

But the reusability also should appeal to value-conscious consumers, said Bill Schultz, exec VP-Dixie products at Fort James. Fort James' research finds about half of consumers now reuse plastic plates and cups.

While washing and reusing "disposable" plates sounds strange, Mr. Schultz said the concept has been proven to work in other categories, including contact lenses and food storage containers.

"I guess part of what makes it work is the creative dissonance," he said. "Reusable disposable is right on target with what consumers want most, which is choice."

P&G WENT WITH TOWELS

Procter & Gamble Co. pioneered the concept in paper towels with Bounty Rinse & Reuse, which has been a moderate success since its launch in March 1997.

Primarily, though, Dixie Rinse & ReUse is meant to deepen Dixie's "home cleanup replacement" positioning, appealing to plate snobs who dislike paper versions.

"It's a plate I wouldn't be a-shamed to have on my table when my mother-in-law visits," Mr. Schultz said.

The line ranked in the top 20% of all products ever tested by Bases Worldwide, ACNielsen Corp.'s concept-testing unit, Fort James said.

According to

Information Resources Inc., Tenneco Packaging's Hefty brand is the leader in the $1 billion disposable plate category. Dixie is second at $172 million.

Fort James also plans a limited-store test market early next year in the Midwest and Northeast for a new retail version of Dixie Hot Cups. The insulated cups, currently used in specialty coffee shops, will be positioned for use with hot or

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