Dough Boy goes into deep freeze

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Pillsbury Co.'s giggling Dough Boy will have to don a sweater as the company prepares to take the freezer section by storm.

The marketer, expected to be acquired shortly by General Mills, will spend $43 million to back its new line of frozen biscuit, sweet roll, cookie and dinner roll dough products, Pillsbury Home Baked Classics. The move is an attempt to extend Pillsbury's dominant position in refrigerated dough, where it is by far the category leader with more than $1 billion in annual sales, into the small but growing frozen dough segment.

"We view ourselves as the dough leader in the grocery industry, and we feel that this frozen line has the potential to do what refrigerated [dough] has done," said a Pillsbury sales executive. "There is an emerging frozen baked goods category, but no one is out there defining it, and as the leader, we want to step up and do that," he said.

Pillsbury's sales in refrigerated dough slipped 3.4% to $1 billion for the 52 weeks ended Aug. 12, while sales of all brands of refrigerated dough were $1.4 billion. The frozen bread, rolls and pastry dough category, meanwhile, grew 15% to $116 million for the same time period, according to Information Resources, Inc. The segment is dominated largely by regional players, among them category leader Rhodes International, whose Rhodes Bake-N-Serv line grew 24% to $47 million.

Pillsbury quietly unveiled its Home Baked Classics biscuits last year, facing a glitch this past July when it had to recall 30,000 cases of the products after finding they contained plastic strands. Now, though, the company has launched a full seven item line of dinner rolls, cinnamon rolls, frozen cookies and additional biscuits, and will begin to support the entire line with a major TV media blitz beginning in mid-October. Bcom3 Group's Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, handles. Pillsbury will also promote the line with national newspaper inserts in October, December and March.

Home Baked Classics will target consumers who perceive the quality of frozen baked goods to be better than refrigerated and hence is not expected to cannibalize Pillsbury's existing refrigerated business, the sales executive said. Advertising and packaging will feature the Pillsbury Dough Boy prominently and speak to the convenience of the line's resealable bags, which unlike refrigerated dough canisters, allow consumers to make as much or as little as they want. Bake time for the products, with the exception of partially baked dinner rolls that take five to seven minutes, is slightly longer than for refrigerated products.

Pillsbury spent $61 million on measured media on its refrigerated dough products in 2000 and $33 million for the first six months of this year, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.

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