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Dunkin' Donuts today introduces cinnamon buns in its 3,500-plus outlets in a bid to grab more breakfast business from fast-food and coffee competitors.

The launch comes as McDonald's Corp., which dominates the $20 billion fast-food breakfast market, expands distribution of its bagel sandwich and upscale rival Starbucks Coffee Co. tinkers with a new breakfast initiative aimed at improving food offerings in its 1,600-plus U.S. coffee bars.

Dunkin' Donuts is backing the bun with a 30-second TV commercial from Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Boston, breaking today in spot markets. In addition, two other :30s breaking today will feature the chain's variety of breakfast items. One commercial supports a monthlong promotion offering a free muffin or doughnut with the purchase of a large coffee.

The company will spend an estimated $10 million on the three breakfast spots.

With cinnamon buns, Dunkin' Donuts is fighting back against No. 2 fast-feeder Burger King Corp., which last year launched Cini-minis, four miniature cinnamon buns with a packet of frosting on the side.

"Consumers love it. It has become a core menu item at breakfast," said a Burger King spokeswoman, adding that it "is doing exceptionally well."

The new Dunkin' Donuts commercials use the brand's signature humor and carry the theme "Nothing says morning like Dunkin' Donuts." The cinnamon bun spot shows museumgoers more attracted to a guard snacking on a cinnamon bun and Dunkin' Donuts coffee than to the art on display.


Marty Donohue, VP-associate creative director at Hill Holliday, said the goal is to remind consumers Dunkin' Donuts isn't just for coffee and doughnuts.

The advertising's goal is "to reinvigorate Dunkin' as the place to go in the morning," he said. "Their coffee has always been the driver. Now it's a one-stop morning place."

Bob Sandelman, president of Sandelman & Associates, a restaurant industry researcher, noted that any chain has a major competitor in McDonald's when it comes to breakfast-just by the burger giant's sheer number of locations, some 12,500.


"McDonald's is so convenient," he said. "People can drive through without missing a beat and be on their way. With a chain like Dunkin' Donuts, in many cases you still have to get there, park, and get out of the car and go inside to get your order."

Competitor Starbucks has only a few drive-through units. Its breakfast test is under way in 10 markets and is designed to add sales and cut costs, according to a report issued last week by Salomon Smith Barney.

Starbucks did not return calls seeking comment.

Dunkin' also may have something to worry about from Starbucks on the coffee front. According to the Salomon Smith Barney report, Starbucks has plans to introduce a 24-ounce cup.

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