Red-Hot Marketing

A relished market, the hot-dog category is marked by sophisticated promotional efforts and countless product varieties.
Hot diggity! Americans consume 20 billion frankfurters a year, dogging 2 billion in July alone, according to Washington, D.C.’s National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, an arm of the American Meat Institute.
In the retail hot dog market, where total U.S. sales of refrigerated frankfurters increased 0.6 percent to more than $1.6 billion for the year ending May 15, 2005, Kraft Foods’ Oscar Mayer brand led the pack with more than $308 million in sales, followed by Sara Lee Foods’ Ball Park franks, with sales of about $251 million, and Bar-S’s more than $119 million.
Among notable product introductions in 2004 was Ball Park’s new line of GrillMasters in Deli Style Beef, Hot 'n Spicy, Smokehouse, and Hearty Beef flavors. Forty percent larger than the average hot dog, GrillMasters were designed specifically for the grill. “We know that there are adults out there looking for more from their hot dog,” says Deborah Sabo, director of marketing for Ball Park. “With the Ball Park GrillMaster frank, we maximized everything that’s important in a hot dog eating experience – size, flavor, and meatiness – and developed the ultimate hot dog for grilling.”
Top 10 Refrigerated Frankfurter Brands*
  Dollar Sales ($ millions) Dollar Sales %
Change Prior Year
Dollar Share Unit Sales
Unit Sales %
Change Prior Year
1. Oscar Mayer 308.6 1.4 18.8 120.2 2.6
2. Ball Park 251.1 -7.2 15.3 91.8 -10.2
3. Bar S 119.6 3.4 7.3 108.8 -1.1
4. Private Label 98.6 -3.9 6 64.1 -8.0
5. Hebrew National 82 3.4 5 21.4 -1.9
6. Nathan 67.5 10.9 4.1 17.9 1.8
7. Gwaltney 36.5 16.3 2.2 30.5 14.0
8. Bryan 33.2 -18.9 2 16.5 -21.6
9. Armour 32.2 -4.5 2 25.5 -3.0
10. Eckrich 28.5 -9.5 1.7 17.1 -8.7
Total Category 1,639.1 0.6 100 806.5 -2.9
*Total U.S. supermarkets, drug stores, and mass merchandisers excluding Wal-Mart for the 52 weeks ending May 15, 2005. Source: Information Resources Inc.
To support GrillMasters in 2005, Ball Park planned to give away an estimated 2.5 million free Ball Park GrillMaster franks as part of its Free Frank Friday national promotion. Every consumer who bought a package of GrillMasters on Friday, May 27, was eligible to receive a full refund of the purchase price by sending in a rebate form and proof of purchase.
A segment of the hot dog category to watch is the natural and organic market. Among other inroads, Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres, and Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, reportedly plan to test sales of organic hotdogs and bratwurst next season.
The kosher market, meanwhile, has added Abeles & Heymann Gourmet Kosher Provisions’ 16-ounce kosher bison hot dogs to its offerings. The company touts bison as a low-fat, low-cholesterol, yet high-protein alternative to beef.
Omaha, NE-based ConAgra Foods’ Hebrew National, one of the country’s most recognized kosher deli brands, is celebrating its 100-year anniversary in 2005 with a new marketing campaign and increased production in its kosher facility in Quincy, MI. The Hebrew National campaign, a re-launch of its successful “Never Tasted” advertising campaign, was launched during May’s Food Marketing Institute show, where Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks signed baseballs, and mobile hot dog stations distributed free Hebrew National hot dogs on the show floor.
ConAgra’s Armour brand of hot dogs – among other ConAgra brands – in January announced a major sponsorship deal with Six Flags Inc., the world’s largest regional theme park company, to become a national food sponsor for its 28 U.S. parks. The sponsorship will allow Armour to expand its foodservice presence at the parks, while gaining category exclusivity and promotional rights both in and out-of-park.
Kraft Foods’ Oscar Mayer brand, meanwhile, in May launched the Win the Ride of Your Life! Contest, giving people the chance to win the use of the Wienermobile for a day and up to $5,000.
And in a creative development, two Chicago companies – Vienna Sausage Mfg. Co. and Alpha Baking Co., home of S. Rosen buns – have pledged to package their hot dogs and buns in corresponding numbers – the number eight. Vienna also won a major deal with Target Corp. this year in which the giant discount chain will sell the Chicago-style hot dog at its 1,350 store food courts, and 1,000 stores that sell groceries will carry the brand. NP