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Not only has Barbara Smith, 57, proved to be a successful model, restaurant owner, and entrepreneur, she’s also shaping up to become one of America’s top product endorsers. Since Smith has appeared on the General Mills’ Betty Crocker Cornbread & Muffin Mix package, sales have risen an impressive 22.3% in the 12-month period ending September 2006.
General Mills now owns Pillsbury, and the company has placed the lifestyle doyenne’s likeness on its Pillsbury brand biscuits as well. As a result, Smith’s visibility has increased significantly in mainstream households and may, in turn, help bolster sales of her own company’s product lines.
“Between Betty Crocker Cornbread and Muffin Mix and Pillsbury biscuits, my image is on 50 million products,” says Smith. “People like to connect to a personality that they believe in. [The B. Smith brand] is about home, it’s about entertaining, it’s about family — it’s about bringing people together.”
Smith’s message is also about staying true to her African American heritage, yet reaching out to other cultures at the same time, says Pepper Miller, president of the Chicago-based Hunter-Miller Group, a market research and planning firm.
“She has great crossover appeal because she doesn’t prepare just soul food,” says Miller.