P&G tests cooking school

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Procter & Gamble Co. plans to test a cooking school and an ingredient line under the Culinary Sol brand. The test comes as the company tries to expand its role from a purveyor of package goods to a provider of solutions and services.

The first of what could become a chain of Culinary Sol cooking schools in P&G's hometown of Cincinnati is scheduled to open the third week of January. P&G also will sell a line of premium-price food ingredients online via CulinarySol.com. The ingredient line will include sauces, spices, marinades and oils.

Grey Global Group, New York, will handle media advertising, which initially will include only print ads in Cincinnati.

A CULINARY EDUCATION

The Culinary Sol store will look like a retail version of the set of a Food Network cooking show. The store will be open seven days a week and feature stadium-style seating for large classes, and smaller kitchens for hands-on training. Class prices will range from $25 for lunch-hour sessions to $100 for extended weekend courses.

"A lot of people just need a culinary education," a P&G spokeswoman said. "The goal is to meet that need and provide culinary education, so they'll have the competence and become more creative in the kitchen."

Culinary Sol is the latest in a series of moves by P&G to concentrate on providing "solutions" as well as products. The company's "Animals" campaign for Pampers, launched earlier this year via D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, New York, was intended to expand that brand beyond disposable diapers. Pampers' new "baby care" positioning encompasses online parenting advice and leaves room for a wider array of product and service offerings, said Deb Henretta, VP-global baby care.

CROWDED KITCHEN

Among other ventures, P&G now offers sex and dating advice at the BeingGirl.com Web site and home-care tips from HomeMadeSimple.com.

P&G isn't alone. Food marketers such as Kraft Foods and Unilever have loaded their Web sites with interactive features aimed at restoring consumers' atrophied cooking skills. Unilever's Ragu.com even centers on a fictional Italian mother who dishes out recipes and dating advice.

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