Dolmio stirs up sauces markets

Dolmio was launched in 1986 at a time when Italian food was a relative newcomer to the UK. The pasta sauce market was only worth 8m. Since 1986 this market has grown and is now worth 170m. Dolmio was largely responsible for initiating this growth and by 1994 had achieved brand leadership with a market share of more than 40 per cent. The brand was built on the quality of its ingredients under the strapline “Only the best will do”.

Dolmio’s share began to fall in 1994 (it went down to 33 per cent in 1996) in a market that was still growing rapidly. This was a worrying state of affairs – especially for a brand leader like Dolmio. Share was being lost to own-label products from trusted retailers which were able to offer a similar range of products with good quality ingredients at competitive prices.

There were also signs pasta sauces across the board were not inspirational enough; spaghetti bolognese had become anglicised and boring. Qualitative research also indicated there was a need to invest the Dolmio brand with some emotional “Italian” values as its rational benefits had become associated with the category as a whole.

DMB&B’s task was clear. Dolmio needed a distinct new positioning as a springboard for an ad campaign that would enable the brand to defend its territory as market leader and capitalise on the continuing growth of the pasta sauce market. The new campaign needed to be flexible enough to accommodate the launch of new products as well to rejuvenate the core brand.

The Dolmio family aims to be like the pasta sauce brand’s customers, overloaded with family commitments, work, outside interests and the other pressures of modern life. They enjoy and appreciate good food, but don’t always have the time or inclination to cook for themselves. The quality message, which was once Dolmio’s selling point, is taken for granted by the family. The family is looking for inspiration or some sort of personal reward from the brand, and they are not prepared to pay up without it. DMB&B decided that it was time to position Dolmio as the brand with a real passion for Italy and Italian food.

And so, at the end of 1996 the “Take Italian Lessons with Dolmio” campaign was created. It avoided the clichéd portrayals of Italy so often embraced by advertisers and chose to represent real Italy. The first execution supported the Dolmio “Original” product for bolognese. Opening with the title “How to eat Italian” it then offers tips based on observations of how Italians enjoy food.

The “lessons” approach has since facilitated the successful launch of three new products – Stir-in, Al Forno, and Delizioso, as well as injecting the brand with the contemporary Italian values it was so much in need of.

An integrated approach was designed to reach our target at every purchase consideration occasion. National television was used as the lead medium to create awareness with radio to drive frequency. The TV ads were supported by press, outdoor and in-store initiatives.

In 1997, 4m was spent. In the same year sales increased 47.6 per cent (by value) and 37.6 per cent (by volume). Market share moved up three points to 36 per cent and during 1998, this figure rose to 39 per cent. Sales of Dolmio Stir-in sauces increased by 326 per cent in 1997, to 11m (now 13m moving annual total). Dolmio Al Forno sauces were launched in 1997 and are now worth 7m (MAT).

Mediaspan research has shown propensity to purchase increases with repeated exposure and there is no evidence of a saturation effect. Qualitative research has demonstrated that Dolmio is now seen as the authentic, aspirational pasta sauce brand.

Company: Pedigree Masterfoods

Client: Gwen Robinson

Agency: DMB&B

Board account director: Mike Dickson

Account supervisor: Michael Pring

Planning: Sally Ford-Hutchinson

Creative: Roger Rex/Roger Sealey

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here