BUSINESS

Gilles Marini on getting men to cook (and maybe pick up groceries)

Grocery stores and food companies have long focused their marketing efforts on women, believing the kitchen to be their domain.

But maybe that should change, according to Gilles Marini. The French actor is known as "that shower guy" from the first "Sex and the City" film and more recently as a sultry contestant on "Dancing with the Stars."

Now, he's also the face of a new campaign from Nestle brand Buitoni. The Italian pasta and sauces company is trying to lure more men to the stove (and to its products) with a video contest dubbed "Girls Like Guys Who Can Cook."

"Knowing how to cook gave me many incredible opportunities with the ladies," Marini said in a recent interview. "It’s like knowing how to play the piano. A man who doesn't cook isn’t really a man."

He should know -- he was born in a bakery in France and won a major pastry competition at age 16 with a strawberry shortcake, which he said is still his favorite item to make.

"I'm a better chef than an actor or dancer combined," he said. "Cooking is dear to me, it's close to my heart."

To participate in the contest, consumers should submit video of men cooking for a shot at $10,000 and a year's supply of refrigerated Buitoni products.

"Ten grand in this economy is, what, one month of gas," Marini joked. "Really, though, cooking takes five minutes of a man's life and is super simple, and no matter what he’s making, the ladies will love it. It's the attention that counts."

Buitoni is far from the only grocery or packaged-foods company now catering to men.

Women still handle the bulk of grocery shopping, but in the U.S., more men are staying home and starting to shoulder of the burden, according to a Nielsen report last year.

This summer, a New York grocery store put in a so-called man aisle, a sort of supermarket man cave, featuring goodies such as steak sauce, booze, condoms, deodorant and razors.

"The next generation of men are coming of age in an era when gender roles are less rigidly defined and men are set to become only more domestic," Alexandra Smith, consumer trends director at research group Mintel International, said in a statement.

"The assumption of men relying upon partners to shop -- or even having partners in the first place -- is in need of revision," she said. "Brands that have long assumed their target audience to be women may need to take a second look at who's pushing the grocery cart."

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