Heinz has big plans for Boston Market

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The new advertising for Heinz Frozen Food Co.'s Boston Market Home Style Meals touts the availability of the restaurant's fare in grocers' freezer, but the freezer is just the beginning.

Heinz this week launches TV spots for its frozen version of the fast-feeder's 16 single-serve meals-meats, poultry and side dishes-in 19 West Coast markets with plans to roll the campaign national in April.

But although the spots from DDB Worldwide, San Francisco, feature a chicken on the spit in the freezer to signify the extension of the meals to grocery, Heinz plans to expand the trademark across categories beyond frozen dinners and make the brand a key driver of a long-term strategy to bring consumers back to the grocery for convenient dinner options.

`JUST THE BEGINNING'

Although Heinz wouldn't comment specifically on future plans, Jay Abraham, the Heinz unit's VP-marketing, said "the new items compete most directly in the frozen dinner and entree category, but that in our minds is just the beginning. The licensing agreement [with Boston Market] gives us global rights for packaged foods across all categories."

To reach their primary target-time and energy-constrained consumers looking for dinnertime solutions-Heinz is testing national spending levels of $8 million to $12 million on the West Coast, using the initial markets as an opportunity to determine how best to advertise the brand.

For example, Heinz is testing throughout the Pacific Northwest the use of extensive outdoor advertising that says simply, "Now available in your grocer's freezer."

TV spots-both a 15- and 30-second spot-feature a Boston Market chef in the restaurant's kitchen cooking rotisserie chickens. As frames read, "Now for the first time ever, Boston Market chicken is ready in your freezer," the chef opens the freezer to find a fiery chicken on a spit inside.

To promote Boston Market Home Style Meals as a "destination center" for retailers, Heinz is pushing special freezer displays the company hopes will be placed near retailers' "home meal replacement" centers-often the deli/food-service area.

In addition, Heinz is working with retailers to leverage the Boston Market brand through tie-ins with frequent-shopper databases and special retailer-specific advertising and promotions.

"Fundamentally, we see [Boston Market] as an opportunity to give the retailer a branded platform for their [home meal replacement] strategy," Mr. Abraham said.

TAKING ON CALLENDER'S

Within the frozen-dinner segment in which the Boston Market line initially will compete, the licensed lineup will go up against the premium-price, higher-quality items that have been driving growth in the category, among them ConAgra's Marie Callender's.

That brand is up 28% to $272 million for the 52 weeks ended Oct. 10, and Stouffer's Skillet Sensations, a new Nestle USA line, has risen to $74 million for the same time period, according to Information Resources Inc.

Heinz already plays in the frozen segment with its value Budget Gourmet brand, but it is down more than 7% to $193 million. Its Smart Ones brand, targeted to weight and nutrition conscious consumers, was up 34% to $206 million as of Oct. 10, per IRI.

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