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Super Valu is reeling customers in with frozen fish merchandising rush.

Super Valu is Reeling Customers in With Frozen Fish Merchandising Push

The Flav-o-Rite line is hooking shoppers who previously worried that fish stored in home freezers might lose flavor. As for popularity, swordish steaks out-sell salmo n.

Why is Super Valu's Flav-o-Rite frozen fish program different from any other frozen fish program? Well, the bottom line is that it's changed a lot of people's minds about frozen fish.

Launched on a trial basis for the Lenten season by the Minneapolis, Minn., USA-based wholesaler, the program has more than proven itself, said Dennis Smith, corporate meat director, and will be expanded to other divisions and other products.

"We started out with unbreaded products," Smith told Quick Frozen Foods International. "Products in a natural state are perceived as more healthy. Then we tried to pick out the top selling fish items in the wholesale divisions. Finally, we worked to overcome consumers' fears about fish.

"What frightened a lot of people was price," he admitted. "When the price is $8 to $14 a pound, the consumer's afraid of making a mistake. If she ruins it, she's wasted a lot of money. We decided to go with 12-ounce portions that can serve a family of three for less than $1 a serving."

But Super Valu went beyond product and price. Introduction of the Flav-o-Rite line was accompanied by in-store demonstrations, showing how easy it is to prepare the items -- just 20 minutes in a microwave and they're ready to eat. That's important, because consumer confusion about how to prepare fish has limited its consumption in North America.

The introductory line includes Alaskan pollock fillets, ocean perch fillets, haddock fillets, salmon steaks, sole fillets, Atlantic cod fillets, halibut steaks and swordfish steaks. All are packed in vacuum-sealed tray packs, with color-coded labels to make each variety easy for consumers to find. Rail strips and case dividers make displays even more consumer-friendly.

Exact weight packaging makes Flav-o-Rite fillets and steaks scanner friendly, too -- they can be run right through the checkout scanners, instead of having to go through the meat scales. Retailers were given explicit instructions on handling of frozen seafood, to make sure the new line would be handled and displayed properly. They were also told how to answer customers' most frequently asked questions.

The first eight items were advertised two a week on a revolving cycle, Smith said. "After 90 days, we figured customers would have had a chance to try each of them at least once." Ten and fifteen-second radio spot commercials were part of the promotion, with teaser lines like, "At Super Valu, they've caught on to what you're looking for . . ." And even meal advice was offered: "Prepare cod with herbs and lemon for a healthful, low fat main course."

Super Valu had an advantage introducing the line in its home division. "People here aren't so prejudiced against frozen fish," Smith said. "They firmly believe that `fresh' fish is just fish that has been frozen and then thawed." Even so, the wholesaler was surprised by some of the results. "We expected salmon steaks to be our best seller, particularly since this is a largely Scandinavian area," he said. "But it turned out that swordfish steaks sold better than anything else."

Volume peaked during Lent, but has remained strong enough since then to justify not only keeping the program but extending it to Super Valu's other 17 divisions. "We'll probably roll it out at the rate of one or two divisions a month," Smith predicted. More items may be added; shrimp is under consideration, and for its Southern divisions Super Valu might even introduce the country's first private label catfish.

Both packaging and promotion identify the line as "Flav-o-Rite Fresher Frozen Fish," and some of the radio commercials stress that it isn't like anything else consumers may be used to: "So now you can keep fish in the freezer and not worry about that flat, dull flavor you get with so many frozen fish products." If the line catches on nationwide, the bottom line won't be dull, either!

PHOTO : Salmon steaks were among first introductions in Super Valu's Flav-o-Rite Fresher Frozen Fish line.
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Title Annotation:Super Valu Stores Inc.
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Oct 1, 1990
Words:690
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