Quick Breads

A Slump for Betty Crocker and the Pillsbury Doughboy

Pillsbury DoughboyIn an age of convenient food taken to a whole new level, Betty Crocker and the Pillsbury Doughboy find themselves in a bit of a slump. Mixes that made cakes, cookies, and sweet breads fly out of the oven like magic are not meeting consumer needs like they once did. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that sales of Betty Crocker bake mixes have been declining for more than two years, along with the entire category.

Industry analyst Jack Russo says that for “anything in a box or can, the prospects have been limited.” Instead, following admonitions from nutrition and health experts, consumers are favoring fresh, unprocessed foods. According to Elizabeth Nordlie, vice president for baking at General Mills, factors beyond just nutrition preferences are at work. The baking business at General Mills fell 6% in 2015. She says:

There are headwinds in the baking category. Clearly, people are making more better-for-you food choices. But I think the biggest factor in our category is that people are just busy.

So it’s interesting to see fresh meal subscription services like Blue Apron and HelloFresh flourish by offering a mix of convenience and fresh nutrition, naturally at a bit of a premium price point. For about ten dollars per meal, Blue Apron delivers millions of meal kits to aspiring cooks all over the U.S. With a valuation exceeding two billion dollars, Blue Apron leads a food segment estimated to be worth $1.4 billion in sales, growing rapidly. Now grocery chains are looking for ways to participate.

Maybe, just maybe, some of these changes will take people to a better place of healthier dietary habits. Stranger things have happened.

For more on the challenges facing Betty Crocker and the Pillsbury Doughboy, click here. Click here, here, and here for more on Blue Apron and fresh meal subscriptions.

Quick Breads, illustration from Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book, distributed by Otto Nassar / flickr

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February 14, 2016