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There’s a new baker in town

McDonald’s ups the ante with the debut of a fresh pastry line on Dunkin’ Donuts’ home turf

At McDonald’s in Brighton, a new line of breakfast baked goods was showcased. At McDonald’s in Brighton, a new line of breakfast baked goods was showcased. (Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff)
By Gail Waterhouse
Globe Correspondent / March 10, 2012
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McDonald’s, the fast-food giant associated more with the smell of french fries than fresh pastries, is expanding its breakfast line at the chain’s New England restaurants to include baked goods, taking aim at a market segment dominated by Canton-based Dunkin’ Donuts.

The new menu items - which are already in stores and will be officially promoted starting Monday - include cheese danish, two kinds of muffins, banana bread, and vanilla scones. Unlike the traditional McDonald’s breakfast menu, which features offerings such as oatmeal, pancakes, and variations of the long-popular Egg McMuffin, the baked goods will be available all day.

The products will be made daily in each restaurant here - as well as at the company’s Albany, N.Y., shops - according to Lou Provenzano, an owner of 13 McDonald’s locations in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Provenzano was part of the team that created the light-breakfast line.

“The fact that we bake them on the premises is a unique piece,’’ he said. “We actually bake them - they’re not frozen.’’

Provenzano said the line was developed in response to consumer demand. “Customers were asking us for something in the way of a sweet or baked good item we could serve them,’’ he said.

Some of the McDonald’s products, such as the mini vanilla scones and danishes, have counterparts at Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks shops.

The introduction of McDonald’s breakfast pastries is a strategic move to keep pace with fast-food competitors such as Dunkin’ Donuts, according to Ron Paul, president of Technomic Inc., a food industry consulting firm in Chicago.

“I don’t think starting in New England is by accident,’’ he said. “McDonald’s has got to react to competition.’’

But Dennis Lombardi, executive vice president of WD Partners, a restaurant design development consultancy in Ohio, said the biggest competition McDonald’s has is itself.

“It’s all part of over seven years of growth that’s unprecedented in the industry,’’ Lombardi said. The addition of baked breakfast goods makes the restaurants “appealing to more and more people,’’ he said. The products might appeal to consumers who consider other breakfast options at McDonald’s too heavy, he said.

“If I wanted to just get coffee and a scone, McDonald’s wasn’t on my radar screen before,’’ Lombardi said.

Michelle King, a spokeswoman for Dunkin’ Brands Inc., declined to speculate on the decision by McDonald’s to roll out its baked goods line on the Canton coffee seller’s home turf.

“We focus on our customers, not the competition, and we know that the passion for Dunkin’ Donuts in New England is unmatched thanks to our franchisees,’’ King said in a statement Friday.

McDonald’s has gone after Dunkin’ Donuts customers before.

In 2009, it launched McCafe, an upgraded coffee line. With cheaper prices than Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks - and more convenient locations on highways as well as in cities and suburbs - the chain quickly became a serious coffee competitor.

Provenzano believes offering pastries will help his restaurants sell even more coffee.

“For people who don’t know about our coffee, these products will help introduce them to it,’’ he said. “The pairing is great in the morning for breakfast, or if they wanted an iced coffee and a snack in the afternoon.’’

If his optimism translates into revenue, McDonald’s probably will eventually expand its bakery line to other parts of the country.

“Being a large chain, it’s hard to accommodate every request,’’ Provenzano said, “but getting this positive input and feedback we’ve gotten so far is promising.’’

Gail Waterhouse can be reached at gail.waterhouse@globe.com.

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