Lipton plans $45 mil effort for entry into dinner mixes

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Lipton is betting $45 million it can create a stir with its first entry in the growing $450 million dry dinner-mixes category.

The Unilever unit in January will extend its eponymous brand beyond soups and side dishes to complete meals. The marketer will roll out a line of meal kits intended to be paired with chicken, called Lipton Sizzle & Stir.


The launch will receive a whopping $45 million in TV and print support starting in March, targeting women ages 25 to 44 with the message that the premium kits provide a convenient meal for the whole family. Lowe Lintas & Partners Worldwide, New York, will develop the ads.

Lipton is the leader in the growing dry side-dish mix category, with products such as Lipton Noodles & Sauce and Lipton Rice & Sauce. But competition is bubbling. General Mills, long the leader in dry dinner mixes with its Betty Crocker Helper products, entered the shelf-stable side-dish category during the summer with a pasta and rice line under the Betty Crocker name.

Now, it seems, turnabout is fair play. With the new Sizzle & Stir line -- which includes varieties such as three-cheese chicken alfredo penne and lemon-garlic chicken and rice -- Lipton intends to steal share from other marketers whose offerings require consumers to just add chicken to create a complete meal in minutes.

Most notable among them are General Mills' Chicken Helper, introduced successfully last year, and Kraft Foods' Stove Top Oven Classics, launched in late 1998.


Dry dinner mixes overall were up 14% for the year ended Oct. 10, according to Information Resources Inc., growth one Midwest grocery buyer attributes in large part to Chicken Helper, which has grown to $48 million in sales.

"Lipton is getting into the category now because the opportunity for add-meat `mealmakers,' particularly chicken-based, is very large and the Lipton brand equity carries a lot of weight," said an executive close to the company.

Lipton intends to market Sizzle & Stir as a premium meal kit, with a suggested retail price of $2.69 for the six-serving box vs. Chicken Helper's price of $1.99.

Marketing support will target higher-income moms with prime-time and daytime TV and print ads running March through December, five newspaper inserts dropping between March and October, and extensive sampling programs in April and May and again in September and October.

Separately, Kraft's Stove Top Oven Classics line -- which differs from Chicken Helper and the new Lipton line because it is meant to be baked rather than made in a skillet -- will get two new potato varieties, au gratin and roasted garlic, to further bolster its $35 million in sales.


Unlike Kraft's Oven Classics' commercial from FCB Worldwide, Chicago, that features two elderly women discussing the merits of the 30-minute meal kits, Lipton's Sizzle & Stir ads will position the products as quick meals for young moms with kids, said the executive close to the company.

Lipton's sales in the $428 million dry side-dish category grew 9% to $164 million for the year ended Oct. 10, per IRI. Quaker's Golden Grain division, which includes Rice-A-Roni and Noodle-Roni, was down 4% to $128 million, and Betty Crocker was up 34% to $38 million.

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