Pillsbury Perfect Portions Buttermilk Biscuits

General Mills/Pillsbury aims for convenience with Perfect Portions Buttermilk Biscuits – and comes up just short.

By Hollis Ashman and Jacqueline Beckley, Consumer Understanding Editors

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The package is styled to resemble a bakery box with a window so consumers can see the biscuits in their twin packs. The box is the standard Pillsbury blue with a beauty shot of a biscuit with butter melting on it. A hazy light blue suggests the aroma of "fresh" baked biscuits. A burst suggests that you "Bake two at a time. Anytime!"

To prepare the product the consumer must preheat the oven to 350°F (if not, the biscuits do not rise), place the biscuits on a greased baking sheet, then bake for 14-17 minutes (12 minutes in a toaster oven). These biscuits bake at about the same temperature as most meals and so can be made with them, without the waste and mess associated with a whole sheet of tube biscuits. Spanish language instructions are included on the package.

The two-packs are easy to open and easy to place on the baking sheet. The size is big, just like Grands, and has a pleasant slightly caramelized grain note mixed with a buttery fragrance when removed from the oven after baking. The biscuit is flaky with layers and a moist, slight salty taste. They are light in mouth texture, and while they don't completely melt in one's mouth, they break apart easily and swallow nicely. There is no lingering leavening system taste. You get your fingers a little greasy when handling this rich biscuit.

Our tasters were impressed with the flaky texture and ease of use. So impressed, they started thinking about kids and after-school snacking. But after they realized they could not be made in the microwave, they were less enthusiastic about the after-school snacking potential. Some of our tasters are already dealing with smaller or empty-nest households and commented that was the reason they began buying frozen rolls. They could just reach in and take out a couple of rolls (no waste) and bake them.

The next comment was price. The price for these convenient biscuits is 1.5 times the price of frozen biscuits. Most tasters with kids felt the price would push them back to frozen rolls. Families without children liked the twin pack but wondered if these would be good in the refrigerator for a prolonged time.

The level of calories was not trivial. An individual biscuit was 200 calories with 90 calories of fat. The ingredient statement was a long list of ingredients that most consumers could not pronounce. Most tasters commented that while types of diets are cyclical, concern over fat and calories will not go away.

Overall, while our tasters thought Perfect Portions buttermilk biscuits tasted good, they were not sure they would really make these a part of their lives due to the price and quantity.

Does the product deliver?

The Pillsbury brand and its Doughboy stand for superior quality and easy preparation, a "fresh-from-the-oven" experience with great taste and tantalizing aroma. The aroma of these biscuits while baking was not strong and is unlikely to pull the household into the kitchen with comments of 'mmmm, that smells good." But these are of superior quality. And the preparation is easy -- if you view 14-17 minutes on a baking sheet as quick and easy.

The product delivers on the promise and could be a good purchase choice for smaller households that don't want the six-eight pack tube in their homes due to waste. There are some opportunities to make this idea even bigger.

How might Pillsbury provide this biscuit in an even more convenient form? Give us the flavor and texture of Perfect Portions but prepared more quickly. Perhaps par-baked. Is there any chance to make these microwavable? That would really move these into the consumer-defined view of convenience.

In the snacking world, the number of easy-to-make, fresh, wholesome snacks is small. Move this very tasty product along that curve and Pillsbury/General Mills has a really useful, convenient product.

Rating: The product and package deliver on the promises.

Market Potential: Good. The package is easy to store and open for consumers with smaller families. It allows consumers to begin to think about using rolls/biscuits in more occasions. Perfect Portions is a good start, but more development is needed to get to the consumer's definition of convenience.

Hollis Ashman (hollis@theuandigroup.com) is chief strategist and Jacqueline Beckley (jackie@theuandigroup.com) is president of the Understanding and Insight Group, a strategy, business and product development firm. See www.theuandigroup.com.

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