Country Living Launches A Food Line

Food-related products seem to be the publishing line extension of choice this week.

Hearst Brand Development announced a partnership between its Country Living magazine and a specialty food marketer to develop and distribute the Country Living Specialty Food Collection. Dennis Publishing announced it will open a chain of Maxim-branded steak eateries. Earlier, at the American Magazine Conference, Rachael Ray, a one-woman media food brand, said she plans to open a burger joint in Manhattan.

It's all about turning brands into additional revenues.

"It makes perfect sense. Everyone wants a piece of the gourmet food market," said Marcia Mogelonsky, a senior research analyst at Mintel, of Hearst's announced deal with Heritage Foods. Country Living's image is "fresh, country, wholesome, good and natural," she added, likening the move to a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. (Good Housekeeping, incidentally, is another Hearst brand.)

Glen Ellen Brown, vice president of Hearst Brand Development, said the new food collection is "about living, about an experience. There's an emotive quality to food." Brown said the move is designed to cultivate Country Living readers' passions and fits right in with Country Living furniture, rugs and quilts, which Hearst markets in other licensing agreements. "Heritage Foods was a natural partner for us, given their capabilities to create shelf-stable products that evoke memories of favorite country dishes and time-honored family traditions."

The cross-pollination is an apparent first in the gourmet food category. A select assortment of the Country Living line has been available for holiday purchase at www.hfsfoods.com since early this month in concert with a soft product launch at the Country Living Fair in Chicago. The complete line of products, including dessert toppings, preserves and "pie in a jar," will be introduced in January at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco.

While she gives Hearst credit for "capturing the gourmet wave," Mintel's Mogelonsky said there are key questions: "Who is going to buy this stuff, and will it catch on beyond the readership? Is it going to be one of those things you give someone for Christmas and then next year it's, 'Oh, no, not Country Living jam again.' They're going to have to keep introducing new products."

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