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Luigino's doubles pasta plant capacity, hopes to reach sales of $50 million.

Luigino's Double Pasta Plant Capacity, Hopes to Reach Sales of $50 Million

Luigino's Inc. has invested some $3.5 million in new equipment to double capacity at its Duluth, Minn., frozen food factory. Among the machinery recently installed was a Westvaco packaging system brought in from Sweden.

"We started planning this expansion as soon as we knew our Michelina's brand pasta and sauce entrees were achieving high acceptance by supermarket chains and consumers," said Jeno F. Paulucci.

The wealthy 72-year-old entrepreneur has returned to his frozen food roots after spending the last decade engaged in the Florida real estate business and restaurant operations.

"Even before we added our newest lasagna products we started ordering new equipment to increase production," boasted the man who made Chinese food a household staple in he USA three decades ago with the Chun King label (now a RJ Reynolds Foods unit). That neat trick was followed up with a successful Jeno's frozen pizza line, which was sold to Pillsbury for $150 million seven years ago.

Paulucci, a native of the Duluth area, has returned home to produce a line of Italian entrees named after his mother Michelina and made from her original recipes. The pasta products, ranging from Fettuccine Alfredo to Linguini Fruitti de Mare, are positioned against well entrenched brands marketed by Stouffer, Heinz and Budget Gourmet.

Stiff competition in the $2 billion frozen entree segment doesn't bother Jeno, who insists that "the market is wide open." To get consumers to try out his 11-dish line, he is offering 10 oz. packs at prices discounted from 50 cents to a dollar against similar items from the established names.

So far the Michelina's label has gained shelf space in more than 1,250 supermarkets around the country, including such major chains as Safeway and Winn-Dixie. A sales goal of $50 million has been set for the first year, with expectations of reaching $100 million in 1992.

PHOTO : Michelina's Bolognese is among the Italian-style pasta products rolled out by Luigino's Inc., Duluth, Minn. The line features recipes from company owner Jeno Paulucci's mother. Its packaging bears her name as well as likeness. Containing fewer than 300 calorie per 9.25 oz. serving, the above product retails at a discounted price of $2.29.
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Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Jul 1, 1991
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