Duncan Hines Goes Dairy, Time-pressed Bakers Rise Up

By Jennifer Siegel

Published August 26, 2005, issue of August 26, 2005.
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Baking from the box is about to get a bit harder for the world’s kosher cooks.

Duncan Hines, the only commercial brand of pareve, or nondairy, cake mixes, recently announced that it will add milk-based ingredients to its products in the fall, according to the industry newspaper Kosher Today.

The decision has spurred some members of the Jewish community to circulate an e-mail asking recipients to lodge complaints on the brand’s Web site, www.duncanhines.com.

Beth Wolpoff, 35, director of development for the Samuel Field YM & YWHA in Little Neck, N.Y., is one of the critics of the upcoming change. “I don’t have two or three hours to make something from scratch,” she said. “For me this is the only option, because either I do it Thursday night when I get home from work, or Friday afternoon if I get home at a decent hour.”

Duncan Hines, formerly owned by Procter & Gamble, was recently sold to the Cherry Hill, N.J.-based Pinnacle Foods Corporation, which also acquired Lender’s Bagels. Though Kelley Maggs, a Pinnacle Foods senior vice president, recognized that the change will affect kosher and lactose-intolerant consumers, he ultimately defended the move, arguing that adding dairy products is likely to improve the overall quality and marketability of the mixes. The brand, which will continue to be certified as kosher by the Orthodox Union, will now be marked with a “D” (for dairy) in addition to the “OU” symbol it already bears.

Wolpoff, who lives with her husband on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, said she uses a Duncan Hines mix at least once a week, but is most worried about Jews who live outside major cities and do not have kosher bakeries available for back-up. “My family is in Jacksonville, Fla., [so] my mother will have no options for whenever she serves a meat meal, because she can’t bake from scratch,” Wolpoff said. “This is it, and if they change it she won’t be able to serve anything but fruit.”

Maggs confirmed that Pinnacle Foods has been receiving customer complaints, but he could not estimate their number. Nabisco’s Stella D’oro brand attempted to make a similar switch several years ago, but reversed its decision after a consumer outcry.

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