Sara Lee expands into frozen entrees

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As Sara Lee Bakery brings back the familiar refrain "Nobody doesn't like Sara Lee," it plans to test that theory with new products in frozen entrees and desserts this July.

The company will launch Calzone Creations, its first-ever frozen entree line under the Sara Lee banner, and extend its bite-sized dessert offerings with new Cake Bites.

The TV ads supporting the products, from FCB Worldwide, Chicago, mark a return to the popular tagline for the overall brand, last used in 1996. The umbrella theme replaces "Add some delicious to your life," which was introduced in late 1998 behind the repositioning of the Sara Lee brand. Ads for both products break Oct. 1.

Calzone Creations are presented in the spots as an easy no-trade-off meal solution offering the ultimate combination of taste and convenience and a wide variety of flavors. National newspaper inserts and in-store sampling and displays will also back the launch.

The new line of six, microwaveable calzones, with varieties such as Southwest Chicken and Thai Pizza Chicken, extends the Sara Lee Corp. unit's bakery heritage into frozen meals for the first time. The July launch is part of Sara Lee's ongoing effort to contemporize its signature brand with convenient, upscale offerings.

"We're reinventing the [Sara Lee] brand to a new target, female head of households 25 to 49 with or without kids, with incomes of $40,000-plus, women who embrace good food but are under time constraints and so are looking for something easy to prepare," said Sarah Branch, marketing manager at Sara Lee Bakery.

FAST-FOOD ALTERNATIVE

Calzone Creations will compete directly in the $859 million handheld entrees category against such players as Chef America's Hot Pockets, as well as against competitors in the $2.3 billion frozen pizza category and the $4.5 billion frozen entree category. But, in addition, Sara Lee found in consumer research studies that 57% of consumers view the Calzone Creations as an alternative to takeout, sandwiches and fast-food.

"The calzones are an option for people who, at 7 p.m. don't know what's for dinner but don't want the same old boring thing [from the freezer case] and also don't want to spent $15 for takeout," Ms. Branch said. Calzone Creations come in packages of two 5.5 ounce calzones for $3.49.

Under the same mandate to continue its convenient, indulgent offerings, Sara Lee will extend the highly successful line of Sara Lee Cheesecake Bites introduced nationally in 1998 with the launch in July of Sara Lee Cake Bites. The frozen Cake Bites -- individually wrapped versions of Caramel Fudge Brownie and Carrot Cake -- also ship July 3. TV ads for Cake Bites plan to similarly reach the food-loving female target with the "Nobody doesn't like Sara Lee" theme.

Cheesecake Bites are credited with growing the cheesecake category by 95% as well as building sales of the overall dessert category by 19.3%, per Sara Lee research. Sara Lee has long dominated the cheesecake category.

The Cake Bites are intended to drive similar growth and bring new, younger consumers into the frozen cakes category, Ms. Branch said.

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