Dairy Queen Launches Panini Line

Dairy Queens paniniDairy Queen is getting into the panini scene with a new product line called Iron Grilled Sandwiches. The new sandwiches launch nationwide this fall, backed by an integrated campaign via Grey NY launching Monday. Spend was not divulged for the TV, radio, print and outdoor push.

Lane Schmiesing, VP/brand marketing at the Minneapolis Dairy Queen International, says the new sandwich lineup will bring in new consumers and redefine the brand for loyalists who think treats when they think DQ.

"We think it's going to bring in a new customer and our existing customers for occasions they otherwise don't come to us for, so [the new sandwiches] will increase both frequency and reach."

A new spot, breaking Monday on national cable and aimed at female heads of household, per Schmiesing, uses the DQ "spokes-lips"--a pair of rose-red lips that talk (and eat)--to focus on the food. The ads, similar to a previous spot for Dairy Queen's burgers, place the lips between the different Iron Grilled choices; the teeth go for one of the sandwiches, the lips the other.

"It really gives us the opportunity to spend the entire time on the sandwiches and fresh ingredients," says Schmiesing. "We are really working on the duality of the brand because that's something unique to DQ: We aren't walking away from treats... but we are trying to establish our credentials [as a full-menu QSR]."

The new lineup includes a deli-style turkey with Swiss cheese; a club sandwich with deli-style turkey, ham and cheddar cheese; and the Supreme BLT. Prices range from $2.65 (for kids-menu grilled cheese) to $4.05. In October the company will test-market a chicken bruschetta Iron Grilled Sandwich, grilled chicken, topped with mozzarella cheese, fresh leaf lettuce, diced tomatoes and pesto sauce.

Maria Caranfa, director of Menu Insights for Chicago-based market-research firm Mintel, says panini-type sandwiches are growing in popularity at both quick-serve and casual-dining establishments because they appeal to consumers on several fronts.

"Hot sandwiches with flat bread give one an option of a smaller snack, a light lunch or dinner on the run; it bridges all of those," she says. "They can be seen as more of a 'knife and fork' meal at a casual restaurant, and a hotter option--both in temperature and trendiness--at QSR restaurants. Flat bread is lower in calories than traditional buns, so the flat-bread sandwiches can be made at a lower calorie point without having to add low-calorie contents."

Competitor Dunkin' Donuts has also begun offering flatbread-style breakfast sandwiches. In Restaurant and Institutions' 44th annual sales-based ranking of the top 400 restaurant chains, Dairy Queen-- with $2.5 billion in sales last year from 5,695 stores--was ranked 21st, after Red Lobster and before 7-Eleven. Dunkin' Donuts was ranked 10th, and McDonald's first.

Dairy Queen--a division of Omaha, NE-based Berkshire Hathaway-- reports that in 2007, sandwiches were a $21 billion industry, and in 2008 that number is expected to top $28 billion.

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