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Arthur Reingold likes to joke that two of his children were born in 1996: his son and DiGiorno Rising Crust Pizza.

While still in only 80% of the country, Kraft Foods' DiGiorno Rising Crust has hit $125 million in sales. The product is second at Kraft only to its Oscar Mayer Lunchables line with repeat purchase rates of more than 50%. Ad recall scores for DiGiorno Rising Crust are among the highest in the marketer's history.

"It's exceeded all our expectations," says Mr. Reingold, 38, previously senior brand manager on DiGiorno and now senior brand manager on Velveeta cheese.

The driver behind the item's success was its point of difference from competitors-the raw dough crust that rises in the oven-and a taste that rivals takeout.

To market the product, Mr. Reingold and company opted to use the DiGiorno name, used for a refrigerated pasta and sauce line and already associated with restaurant-quality food. The team also settled on a $5.59 suggested retail price, a step above other frozen pizza.

The marketing plan included heavy sampling activity, which Mr. Reingold says comprised one-quarter of the marketing budget. The "DiGiorno Traveling Pizzeria" visited 65 cities in 28 states to distribute 250,000 samples, and a DiGiornio hot-air balloon appeared at fairs and events. Support came via print and TV ads from Foote, Cone & Belding, Chicago, comparing the pizza to takeout: "It's not delivery, it's DiGiorno."

The aim was to take a bigger slice of the $26 billion pizza market (including restaurants, takeout and grocery-store pizza) while building the $1.8 billion frozen pizza category dominated by Kraft. DiGiorno has succeeded. The company says the frozen pizza category grew only 3% before DiGiornio was introduced, compared to a 12% clip today. And "half of the DiGiorno buyers are new frozen

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