Can Duncan Hines Create a New Cake Subcategory?
The key to growth even in mature markets is to disrupt the marketplace by creating a new subcategory. That is what Duncan Hines is trying with its “Bake On” initiative. Historically, cake mixes are associated with mothers delighting kids and family, which reflects the composition and motivation of the heavy user. Duncan Hines, the industry leader, is attempting to define a new category, gourmet desserts, by people including men and singles who love to cook. Based on using Duncan Hines’ Triple Chocolate Decadent Cake mix, recipes include chocolate cherry tort, chocolate cheesecake bars. and “cake pops (cake plus frosting formed into balls that are dipped in candies and nuts).” The result is novel, sophisticated, appealing, and interesting, but not necessarily easy or fast to make.
Will this effort succeed? Will Duncan Hines find a new sales platform and target market on which to build? What are the role models to look toward?
In my view, Duncan Hines needs to overcome three challenges. First, the target audience, which wears baking from scratch as a badge of honor, will be skeptical that a cake mix by Duncan Hines can fit into their self-image and cooking pattern. Will it feel right? There is also a credibility problem. There needs, at a minimum, to be a credibility boost, the best would be if one of the recipes got recognition and went viral in the “love to bake” world. Second, Duncan Hines needs to get beyond a trial use to become a part of their repertoire. In relationship terms it cannot just be a fling, but needs to be a long-term relationship. Third, Duncan Hines needs to own and manage the new subcategory. This could mean tying it to the Duncan Hines Decadent brand, continuously innovating, developing a branded promotion (perhaps involving recipe contest), and finding a single signature recipe.
Even if these challenges are met, there remains a big question. Is the market is large enough or can be grown to be large enough? Certainly there are role models from Rice Krispie Treats to Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom-based casseroles. But I suspect that the successes did not involve the added task of taking the brand upward.
There are no guarantees but given the quality of the Duncan Hines kitchen, the likely appear of the recipes, and the upside of a new subcategory, it seems to me that it is a good bet.
What is your opinion? Know of any relevant role models?
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