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Crosstown Dog War: Sara Lee vs. Kraft

Sara Lee, known for its frozen pound cake, and Kraft Foods, known for its macaroni and cheese, are engaged in a crosstown war this summer over -- hot dogs. That's according to an Associated Press account of the rivalry between the two Chicago companies.

Sara Lee owns Ball Park Franks, which it says is the nation's biggest-selling brand. Not so, says Kraft, which claims its Oscar Meyer brand is top dog. (The companies, of course, are reading the research differently.)

Kraft has reformulated Oscar Meyer dogs for the first time in 20 years with what the AP says is a "zestier, meatier recipe."

You might think hot dogs would be recession-proof, but "experts" say no â€" dog consumption is at its lowest level since the mid-80's. Both companies are expecting flat sales this year. But that's not stopping them from going after each other for market share.

And both have a lot riding on the outcome. Not counting the 30 million hot dogs eaten at ballparks (which are often regional brands), about 956 million packages of dogs were sold over the past year. Grocery sales are a $2 billion market.

Kraft and Sara Lee are both in turnaround mode, as companywide sales have slumped. Each company is trying, in different ways, to appeal to adults with their hot-dog brands. Consumption by kids is pretty much a given.

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