Vol. 2, Issue 25, June 22, 2004
The Aeronautical Cure
The Bentinel

Martha Stewart Canned Goods Selling Briskly

Awaiting sentencing on her conviction and with her show temporarily pulled off the air, Martha Stewart is nonetheless continuing to expand the already considerable range of products bearing her name. One recent foray into unfamiliar territory has met with a surprising degree of success.

"I am pleased to announce that the Martha Stewart designer serving cans are selling very well," she said at the annual shareholders meeting of Martha Stewart Living. Stewart addressed some 65 employees and investors at the meeting and provided details on the recent line of products.

"Now, even those without the time or resources to cook a five-course meal can enjoy a little touch of class, which is, I think, a good thing," said Stewart.

The canned goods venture raised eyebrows when Stewart proposed it earlier this year. Essentially, it is a quickly constructed alliance with Con Agra's Chef Boyardi brand in which labels with attractive, tasteful designs in assorted pastel colors replace the typical garish images of the pasta confections within. Product information is printed on the lids, so when consumers remove the lids, the cans can function as "attractive" serving vessels.

"I'm not exactly classy, but my momma always told me putting an open can on the dinner table was bad manners," said Rosie Foster, a New York consumer. "That was always an extra hassle to dump the Spaghetti-O's into another dish. Now thanks to Martha, I can pop the top off, stick a spoon in the can, and put it right on the table. Folks think I'm using the family china."

Industry observers admit the venture has offered remarkably strong return on investment for Martha Stewart and Chef Boyardi alike.

"It costs practically nothing to change the label on a can, and the Martha Stewart versions cost twenty-five percent more," said Angie Haskell, of the American Culinary Institute. "No one would mistake the pasty goop in these cans for Martha's trademark gourmet cooking. But you'd be surprised how far a decorative label will go. Plus they've renamed the products: Beef-a-roni is now 'Pasta Con Manzo' or some such thing."

Many have speculated that Stewart is deliberately seeking to cull favor with the class of people she is more likely to encounter in prison.

"We've been seeing a pattern of products targeting the working class in recent months," said Brent Hoff, economic analyst for the Wall Street Journal. "After years of carefully limiting her brand, suddenly Martha Stewart is lending her name to canned goods, hubcaps, cheap cigarettes, and tattoo parlors. She's trying to build goodwill very very fast."

Unfortunately, the sales of Martha's Signature Canned Pasta line have not affected the company's stock performance, which has been locked into a persistent downward drift as her sentencing approaches.

"I think Martha needs more street cred," speculated Foster. "I bet her stock's going down because everyone thinks she's gonna be killed in prison or something. She needs to knife someone, I think. That's the only kind of thing those Wall Street types seem to respond to."

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