Alum Sarah Monson (MBA14) is cooking up something good with the legendary Miss Dolly Parton
Wednesday, September 6, 2023
Sarah Monson tossing rolo in the air

When Sarah Monson (MBA14) goes grocery shopping, it feels like she’s visiting a bunch of friends. As a senior brand manager, Monson has developed several well known products in her career that line store shelves across the country.

Planters’ peanut-shaped containers? That was her. Kit Kat Big Kats? Also her. The packaging for Rolo? Yep, her too.

“To see them on shelves… I don’t have children, but I assume it’s like when they hit a home run in baseball,” Monson said, laughing. “And as you go along in your career, you say ‘There’s my product, but also, there’s my friend Nicole’s product and there’s my friend Erin’s ’—it triggers so many memories!”

Her team’s latest product launch is with a familiar name, and not just for Monson. Duncan Hines partnered with the one and only Miss Dolly Parton for a line of baking mixes and frostings with a nod to her southern roots. The mixes range from biscuits and cornbread to fudgy brownies and coconut cakes.

The country singer has such a cult following that saying she is a national treasure doesn’t even cut it. Needless to say, it was a quick
“yes” when Parton’s team reached out to Duncan Hines for a possible partnership.

"What would Dolly do?" spatula.

“Dolly is everything and more. She genuinely is,” Monson said. “I got to spend a couple of days with Miss Parton at her studio in Nashville. She’s just genuinely an incredible human being—and a powerhouse. She  makes a point to meet every single person on set, know their names, and interact with them. This partnership is all about really good food and getting people closer to Dolly Parton.”

So far, the reaction has been fantastic. Monson’s team launched limited edition direct-to-consumer boxes with the mixes and fun Dolly merch, which sold out in under 72 hours. You couldn’t miss their pink unboxings on social media this spring, and they won a prestigious SABRE Award for the ongoing celebrity partnership.

Monson got her first taste of sweet-treat branding after graduating with an MBA from Iowa. Thanks to a Tippie alumnus connection with Martin Frech (MBA00), she headed to Pennsylvania to work at Hershey’s where she was thrown right into the business—and the  opportunity to run large projects.

“We had some pretty big turnover, so it was just little ol’ me running that desk and it was incredible,” Monson said. “Kit Kat and Rolo are $900 million businesses in the United States so it was a lot, but it was great.”

She went on to work at Kraft Heinz serving up spoonable smoothies and sweet-and-salty peanuts, so her current role as innovation lead for Duncan Hines at Conagra Brands makes perfect sense, despite the slightly shocking revelation that she’s not a baker.

Dolly mixes

“It’s a testament to our products that I can make all of them!” she said. “My favorites are probably Dolly’s Fabulously Fudgy Brownies
and the Buttermilk Biscuits. To me, biscuits sound so daunting, but they're so easy and quick! You just throw some cheddar cheese in, and they're done in 20 minutes.”

“Baking is such a sweet category in consumer packaged goods,” Monson said. “I’ve had this real privilege to work in categories that
just make people’s lives happier. This partnership has reminded me even more so of that privilege.

“When I think about my career and this collaboration, I reflect on who Dolly is and how she exists in the world,” Monson concluded. “Doing the right thing the right way has made her wildly successful, right? It’s not good enough to just do the right thing—you have to do it the right way and really put your heart into it. That really resonates with me. And also, just have fun!”



Take your baking to the next level

A little bit more effort for incredibly transformational desserts



Brownie Waffles

Have you ever tried making brownies in a waffle iron? We just added an additional egg to the Fabulously Fudgy Brownie Mix recipe and voilà—a transformational breakfast! Tigerhawk optional.


Brownie batter with rolo

Rolo Brownies

A deliciously gooey, chewy mashup of Monson's career! Just toss them in the batter and bake.

DYK? 20% of Rolos sold are used for baking


Pecan Pie Brownies

"Dolly's favorite" Pecan Pie Brownies

Perfect for fall, the Conagra culinary team really knocked it out of the park with this recipe.



  • Cooking spray
  • 1 package Duncan Hines Fabulously Fudgy Brownie Mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 3 T milk


  • Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray 8-inch square pan with cooking spray.
  • Stir together brownie mix, contents of fudge packet, egg, melted butter, and milk in large bowl until well blended—about 50 strokes.
  • Pour into pan and spread evenly.
  • Bake 32-35 minutes, until toothpick inserted 1-inch from edge of pan comes out clean.
  • Remove from oven.

Pecan Pie Filling


  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup or honey
  • 1 egg
  • 2 T melted butter
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 1/2 cups pecan halves


  • While brownies are baking, stir together brown sugar, corn syrup/honey, egg, melted butter, vanilla, and salt in medium bowl.
  • Spread pecans over cooked brownies.
  • Pour pecan pie filling evenly over pecans. Continue baking 20-24 minutes, until filling is set.
  • Cool pecan pie brownies completely  before cutting and serving.
  • Pro tip: If you want perfect cuts, cool the brownies in the refrigerator and use a square cookie cutter.

"This is the best brownie you will ever make in your entire life. Life changing!" 
—Sarah Monson


This story appeared in the Fall 2023 issue of Tippie Magazine.

Photos by Captures by TK Photo & Film and Conagra Brands.