General Mills is using new e-commerce services to bolster the profile of two of its flagship, global brands – Old El Paso and Betty Crocker – in the Middle East.

Consumers in Dubai are now able to order for delivery prepared Mexican dishes and packaged bakery products under the Old El Paso brand and Betty Crocker brands.

The US giant already sells Old El Paso and Betty Crocker through grocery retailers in the region but, in response to consumers eating at home more often due to Covid-19, has sought to give them another way to buy the products.

“What we are doing is not classic direct-to-consumer. What we are doing is also not about opening a sales channel. This is purely about innovative brand-building,” Ali Shaikh, the commercial director for the company’s operations in the Middle East and Africa, said.

General Mills formally launched Old El Paso as a grocery brand in the region ten months ago, while Betty Crocker is already established as the company’s biggest brand in the Middle East.

As Covid-19 hit foodservice sales in the region, General Mills saw an opportunity to boost the profile of Old El Paso.

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Through delivery apps including Zomato and Deliveroo, General Mills has launched what Shaikh described as “the world’s first Old El Paso restaurant”.

He told just-food: “In a virtual format, we have launched a restaurant to deliver fully prepared Mexican food to the discerning consumers of the Middle East. The menu includes everything from nachos to burritos to quesadillas. We thought we could bring some excitement to people by giving them a new taste and new experience of having Mexican food delivered at home.

“We are very clear that we are not in the restaurant business. We are very clear that what we are trying to do is make our brand paramount in the choice of brands recognised when consumers are thinking of food.”

The dishes are made by “cloud” kitchen operator KitOpi with General Mills planning to next launch the service in Saudi Arabia.

In the last week, consumers in Dubai have also been able to order Betty Crocker items.

“We just launched a Betty Crocker online bakery also,” Shaikh said. “We are delivering fully baked cakes, fully baked brownies and, soon to be available, pancakes. What we are doing over here, in making the brand available, both in the grocery channel, as well as in a restaurant / bakery format, makes it much more powerful. Because of the clutter in the media and the lives of people right now, this opportunity I think is something which will be followed up and will be copied by all the global brands. I have no doubt about it.”