So you want to bring a product back?

How General Mills used online clamor to fuel a Dunkaroos return.
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Illustration: Dianna “Mick” McDougall, Photos: Dunkaroos

· 3 min read

Only ’90s kids will remember…and make sure everyone else does, too.

After discontinuing the popular cookie-and-frosting combo pack Dunkaroos in 2012—which first debuted in 1992—Michael Bierbach, associate marketing manager at General Mills, told us the company received four tweets per hour about the product before deciding to bring it back in 2020.

“We had your average consumer tweeting about it. We had the celebrity consumer tweeting about it. We knew that this was something we needed to bring back,” he said.

Slam dunk

Bierbach said a Dunkaroos relaunch had been whispered about among General Mills brand managers since he started at the company almost 10 years ago. After the marketing team saw engagement online, they worked with the brand team, identifying business opportunities and strategies for relaunch.

Once approved by the top brass, Bierbach said the team had to essentially “rebuild the entire product offering and supply chain [and] everything we needed to do to commercialize it,” adding that, “We knew how to do it—like we knew what the formula was, we knew what the inputs were—but doing it 10 years later was a little bit different.”

Bierbach said they looked at past consumer learnings, including “ethnographies, shop-alongs, focus groups, and in-home research” conducted in the late 2000s, to see what fans wanted most from the snack. Findings showed fans wanted an “excuse to eat frosting straight, essentially,” so they changed the shape of the cookie from a kangaroo to a more scoop-able coin.

Packaging also changed slightly, with more emphasis on the new shape and no kangaroo (though the mascot still lives on via the brand’s social channels). When redesigning, Bierbach said they made sure to keep aspects that were “uniquely identifiable” since they were targeting millennials who grew up with the brand.

Dunkaroos old vs. new


The millennial focus also informed the marketing around the relaunch. Bierbach said to “indulge ’90s kids,” the brand partnered with celebrities like Kenan Thompson, who hosted a ’90s trivia night, and sold ’90s-style merch, like bucket hats, most of which he said sold out in less than an hour.

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To sell the actual product, Bierbach said they chose a different route than what General Mills was used to. “Dunkaroos was such an impulse-based purchase and impulse-based product,” he said, so the brand “launched specifically in impulse-based locations,” like 7-Eleven and Walmart check-out lanes. To date, he said, it’s the company’s largest convenience-store launch ever.

To keep momentum going and build a “strategic association with dunking,” Bierbach said the marketing team has worked on campaigns like sponsoring this year’s NCAA 3X3U championship. They’re also building out an “ever-present equity” through licensing and partnerships, as seen in Dunkaroos cereal and frosting, and are experimenting with limited-time offerings, like an orange sherbert flavor, to unlock more purchase potential.

While Dunkaroos can be found in grocery stores today, Bierbach said most profit continues to stem from impulse-based locations. Given sales among convenience-store customers, who tend to be younger, Bierbach said he sees the potential to grow Dunkaroos’ audience. He said they also plan to build more of a presence on TikTok.

“For ‘90s kids, [Dunkaroos] transports you to a very specific time and place,” he said. “I think our job is to start to rebuild again with this next generation, define what this means for them, and take our brand to the next step.”

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