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- Conagra Brands is working with country star Dolly Parton to develop a new line of food products. The items will include frozen, refrigerated, grocery and snacks inspired by down-home comfort cuisine.
- The partnership will provide Conagra with an opportunity to increase its exposure in categories where it is already established, “while authentically positioning us for tremendous growth in new ones including Southern cooking and comfort food,” Tom McGough, the company’s COO, said in a statement.
- The partnership expands an existing agreement struck between the music star and Conagra’s Duncan Hines brand in 2022 that focused on baking items such as cakes, frostings and brownies.
Just two years after announcing its deal with Parton, Conagra is doubling down on the star’s appeal and name recognition. To be sure, Duncan Hines is a well-known brand in its own right, but Conagra evidently sees value in a Dolly Parton-only line that it can use to expand its already dominant reach in the grocery store.
The first branded Dolly Parton item, Buttermilk Pancake Mix, will start hitting shelves this winter. It marks Parton’s first foray into the breakfast category. More items are expected to launch later in 2024, including frozen. With a large portfolio of frozen items, including Birds Eye, Banquet, Healthy Choice and Marie Callender’s, the segment is a logical place for Conagra to start.
But while a Healthy Choice Adobo Chicken Power Bowl or Banquet Spaghetti and Meatballs, for example, have their own large consumer bases, Parton gives Conagra a lucrative platform to do more with Southern cooking and the popularity of comfort foods. Even as consumers look to eat healthier, there is also a growing desire to indulge.
The authenticity and broad appeal that Parton’s name gives to Conagra’s could help with the introduction of products, especially in categories that may be new to the Chicago-based food manufacturer.
At the same time, the ability to adorn packaging with Parton’s name and likeness allows Conagra to stand out with both retailers and consumers. With the majority of new food and beverage products failing during their first full year, the connection to Parton will be a valuable asset for Conagra in reducing the odds of suffering a similar fate.
“We are beyond thrilled to build on the success of our partnership with one of the most beloved and respected women in the world,” said Lucy Brady, president of grocery and snacks at Conagra. “With our expertise in food, we’ll help bring Dolly’s vision and favorite recipes to so many tables across America, with delicious new offerings across a wide range of eating occasions.”
Conagra is not the first food company to tap into a celebrity to help it launch a product. B&G Foods has worked closely for years with chef Emeril Lagasse on pasta sauces, seasonings, rubs, stocks and cooking sprays.
Kraft Heinz struck a partnership with Oprah in 2017 on a line of comfort food with a healthier twist called O, That’s Good! The deal garnered plenty of fanfare initially, but the brand is no longer mentioned on the food company’s website and the products do not appear to be available for sale online at major retailers.
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