Pinnacle overcoming 'structural barriers' in baking mixes

by Keith Nunes
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Duncan Hines Perfect Size cakes, Pinnacle Foods
Pinnacle's introduction of the Duncan Hines Perfect Size product line has increased traffic into the retail baking aisle.

PARSIPPANY, N.J. — Portion size has been a problem for the makers of baking mixes. Most packages make enough for 10 to 12 people, but with many U.S. households skewing smaller, Pinnacle Foods, owner of the Duncan Hines brand, needed to come up with a way of overcoming one of the leading structural barriers in baking mixes — the pan.

Mark Schiller, Pinnacle Foods
Mark Schiller, president of North American Retail for Pinnacle Foods

“If 10 to 12 servings for a cake is too many, then why not give them a cake that’s good for 2 to 4 people?” said Mark Schiller, president of North American Retail for Pinnacle Foods, during a March 24 presentation before the Consumer Analyst Group of New York. “Now the challenge with doing that was consumers only have one cake pan size in their house. It makes enough for 12 to 14 people.”

What the company needed to do was identify a way to inexpensively provide consumers with a pan they could bake in. The solution led to the development of the Perfect Size product line, which was launched in 2015.

“It’s a kit that includes the mix and frosting as well as a 6-inch disposable pan,” Mr. Schiller said. “What’s great about that pan is not only does it allow you to make a smaller cake but you do all the prep in the pan and then you throw it away when you’re done. So there’s no cleanup as well, so we provide added benefits for the consumer.

“For Valentine’s Day, now that we’ve cracked the code on the pan we can do it in different shapes, so we came out with heart-shaped cakes for Valentine’s Day, which was a blockbuster. And we will expect to continue to expand in more shapes as we go forward now that we know how to do this efficiently.”

Duncan Hines Perfect Size heart-shaped cakes for Valentine's Day, Pinnacle Foods
Pinnacle launched Duncan Hines Perfect Size heart-shaped cakes for Valentine’s Day.

The results from the new innovation have been positive for Pinnacle’s Duncan Hines business, Mr. Schiller said.

“Forty-five per cent of the purchases of Perfect Size have been incremental to the category,” he said. “We are actually bringing people back in who have left and the people who are there we are getting them to bake more often.”

The new product has allowed Duncan Hines to maintain its share in a category that has been declining over the years.

“ … We’ve margined up our business and increased our profitability by going after higher-margin, higher-priced offerings in the category,” Mr. Schiller said.

He added that the innovation has proven positive for retailers as well.

“This is a huge traffic building aisle for them because they sell the eggs and the oil and the cupcake liners and lots of other things with that box of cake mix,” he said. “So it makes us a preferred partner when they are looking for what do they need to do next in the category.”

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