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Bakers are stuck on Mirro/Wearever Co.'s AirBake Insulated Cookie Sheets-a product that not only prevents burned cookies but helped resurrect the bakeware category.

"Bakeware was a dead category before insulation came along. Now that we've looked at bakeware as a broader category, we've found ways of innovating ourselves as well as other pieces of business that have been stagnant or dormant for decades," says Rich Thompson, 33, who was Mirro/Wearever's product manager for insulated bakeware when he watched the category explode in 1996. Now he is product manager for all bakeware.

Between 1995 and 1996, AirBake experienced an amazing growth to gain more than 70% market share, says Mr. Thompson. The insulated bakeware product became an entire bakeware/cookware category, complete with knock-offs.

Mr. Thompson says he knew AirBake was really a winner "when we introduced the casseroles and cooling-feet lines [in 1996]. We still had the broadest selection of any insulated bakeware. AirBake started a new category. We've got a lot of knock-offs."

In addition to product innovation, Mr. Thompson credits the success of AirBake to an increased commitment to print and TV advertising from Liggett-Stashower, Cleveland, plus. redesigned packaging.

"When you look back at the category in 1990, you had cookie sheets and cake pans. Now it has exploded into [product] lines and the casserole category. AirBake has become a broader line in the cookware category," says Mr. Thompson.

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