• December 19, 2014

Hot Pockets join list of foods trying to move upscale

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Posted: Sunday, July 21, 2013 4:30 am | Updated: 1:49 pm, Mon Aug 19, 2013.

To the parade of familiar products that are remaking themselves to lure foodies, add this unlikely entrant: the Hot Pocket.

The brand wants to ditch its decades-long reputation as a thawed-out brick of dough with machine-cut blocks of lunch meat. Instead, it wants the microwaveable turnovers to be taken seriously as a sandwich with street cred among gastronomes.

Hot Pockets, owned by Nestle USA, is approaching its 30th anniversary by revamping ingredients, packaging and promotion in what Marketing Director Daniel Jhung calls “the biggest relaunch in the history of the brand.”

The hope is to better appeal to the so-called millennial generation of young foodies while escaping from a recent revenue rut.

To do it, the company is stuffing its dozens of Hot Pockets varieties with more upscale ingredients, including premium meats such as shaved hickory ham and slow-cooked Angus beef. The two new types of crust include a buttery garlic option and a crispy version akin to a savory croissant.

The items, made in kitchens in Los Angeles and Kentucky, will be available not only in grocery stores but also via the recently expanded Amazon Fresh online delivery program.

The new Hot Pockets will roll out with packaging in bolder colors to attract young buyers. The boxes also will call out the fancy meats and crusts to draw the mothers responsible for two-thirds of Hot Pocket purchases, Holmes said.

In the past 25 months, more than a dozen bakery technology, culinary and research and development employees have worked on the upscale Hot Pocket.

Some went on food tours to major national gastronomy centers, such as New York and Chicago, occasionally visiting 14 restaurants a day.

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