General Mills is bringing the pop-up retail concept to Dinkytown Friday, an effort to spotlight Helper, the dinner mix formerly known as Hamburger Helper.

The Helper Hut will be open at Annie’s Parlour, 313 14th Ave. SE from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and from 12 a.m. to 2 a.m. During those hours, patrons can get free Helper meals, including Cheeseburger Macaroni, Crunchy Taco and Four Cheese Lasagna – while supplies last.

Customers can also customize their Helper meals with several different free options, including onion, bacon, cheese, sour cream and guacamole.

Golden Valley-based General Mills has long dominated the dry dinner mix category with Hamburger Helper, which has also come in chicken and tuna varieties. But sales in that category have been weak in recent years.

So in 2013, General Mills revamped the brand, bolstering its chicken offerings – a reflection of chicken’s popularity – and combing sauce pouches with the traditional dry mix and pasta. Mills officially rechristened the product just plain “Helper,” and has upped its promotional activities.

It’s been tough sledding since the re-launch, though. Dry dinner mix sales were down 10 percent from June 2013 to June 2014, according to IRI, a market researcher. However, at least Mills didn’t lose any market share during that time to a rival dinner mix product made by Kraft Foods.

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