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Name dropping.

An eye-catching sign in all Randall's delis reminds shoppers that Boar's Head meats and cheeses are available. At Pueblo's Xtra Super Food Centers countertop signs identify some of the prepared foods as being from Stouffer's. And store circulars at the upscale West Point Market tout the names of specialty meat brands such as Shaller & Weber and Thumann's.

Why are all these operators name dropping? "It's kind of like having designer clothes. It's designer food," says Carol Moore, director of food services at Akron, Ohio-based West Point Market.

Despite the problems some national brands are having in the grocery section, name brands are gaining favor in foodservice. "A brand name signifies that a major company backs the sales, quality level and safeness of the products," says Stephan Kouzomis of Entrepreneurial Consulting Inc., Cincinnati.

Many foodservice operators agree. "At the service deli counter, there is a lot of value in branding because customers are inclined to look for brand names they can trust," says a deli director at a Chicago-based chain.

The issue of quality is critical, agree retailers. "If it means something to the customer, we will indicate it because it makes a quality comment about the product," says Jessie Kirsch, director of deli/bakery operations at D'Agostino Supermarkets, Larchmont, N.Y., referring to deli meats.

Other operators point out that brand identification builds loyalty to the brand and to the store. Randall's Food Markets in Houston, for instance, has had good success with its Boar's Head store-within-a-store sections, says Steve Fraley, director of deli/seafood merchandising. The chain rolled out the sections four years ago and devotes between 6 to 12 feet of its service deli case to the brand.

The Boar's Head line is promoted regularly in Randall's print ads, as well as in an annual TV and radio coop ad campaign. But Fraley attributes much of its success to promotion by deli employees. "We're conducting training seminars now and are showing clerks how a pegged [deli meat] item might cost $2.69 for 6 ounces, but you can get a whole pound of Boar's Head for $6.99 a pound." He says such comparisons help employees stress the value of the premium line to shoppers.

Randall's will soon be adding a section of Alpine Lace brand cheese. The manufacturer is providing special signage.

Regional differences can influence a retailer's decision about whether to go with branded deli items. At the Florida Xtra Super Food Centers operated by Pompano Beach-based Pueblo International, Ed Boxman, corporate delicatessen director, has learned that brand promotion is vital. "In this part of the country, where people meld from different parts of the world, branding is very important," he says. "They know names like Perdue, Butterball, Dak, etc. And I've learned you cannot go with something they do not know."

Besides, Boxman believes that premium branded products enhance sales of less expensive items merchandised nearby. "I'll take an |El Cheapo' turkey breast and put it near Butterball in the same poultry section, and it adds to this product because it is near a quality product," he says. Boxman also asks suppliers to provide him with their logos for use on vacuum-packed self-service deli items, such as cheeses.

Xtra has been going the branded route for deli salads as well, offering Blue Ridge Farms brand salads and announcing this prominently in co-op advertising. In addition, Xtra lets shoppers know when hot food entrees come from a leading manufacturer.

Hot food branding, while less prevalent than promoting the brand names of meat/cheese items, has also been used by operators such as Acme Markets in the Philadelphia area, and Winn-Dixie and Publix in Florida. Boxman says branded prepared foods work better in some marketing areas than in others. "In Dade County most of our hot prepared foods are made from scratch in the stores, but in Broward County some stores offer a number of Stouffer's items," he says. "People feel confident with that brand. They are familiar with it from the frozen food case." Countertop signs and manufacturer-supplied POP materials inform shoppers that the Stouffer's entrees are available.

To motivate deli managers to stand behind the brand, Xtra gets them involved in the product selection process. Recently all deli managers attended a lunch where they sampled Stouffer's items. As a result, seven new items were taken on, says Boxman. "When you make my deli managers your partners in decision making, they really go for the gold."

As a further incentive, an internal contest is being conducted for Xtra deli managers. It is based on a point system tied to the number of cases of Stouffer's products they buy. Cash prizes will be awarded.

Acme Markets, which also uses Stouffer's deli items, has started to offer self-service refrigerated foods carrying the Horn & Hardart name. The Horn & Hardart Baking Co., whose products and automats vanished in the mid-1980s, has been revived by an investment group. The company offers a 12-item line of prepared foods reportedly duplicating the automat recipes. Initial distribution is at Acme, although the chain declines to comment. Plans are to expand distribution to other East Coast markets, according to Mar-Dru Inc., Malvern, Pa., marketer of the branded line.

The availability of co-op ad monies is another strong motivating factor for operators to use branded items. "We like to get the ad monies," says Eileen Wilson, director of food services at Dayton, Ohio-based Dorothy Lane Market, which promotes branded deli meat regularly.

"Fifteen years ago, we couldn't sell anything but Kahn's, and for basic lunch meats, I still stick with that," she says. However, Dorothy Lane, well-known for its signature store-prepared products, has also started to offer the more upscale Thumann's meat line.

"We talk about that name and put it in our ad nearly every week," Wilson says. Thumann's meats, which are sampled daily, are merchandised in a 4- to 5-foot section of the service deli case. Signage identifies the section and manufacturer-supplied nutritional information sits on top of the case.

Dorothy Lane also offers Healthy Choice brand deli meats and features them in ads. In addition, it may be taking on some Boar's Head items. "We will play up the brand," Wilson says. "People recognize it."

West Point Market in Akron, also known for signature foods, promotes name brands in its weekly circular and store signage. "When we make something, we want people to know it. If we don't, we let them know we have the best," says Moore.

For example, she says, "We let people know we carry Shaller & Weber and Thumann" specialty meats. She adds that Parma ham (an imported prosciutto), is also promoted by name via store signage.

In the case of Thumann's meats, store signage alerts shoppers that certain items are low in salt or are 98% fat-free. This has helped sell the products, according to Moore. The distributor's training efforts have also helped. She says all sales associates were recently taken on board a Thumann's promotional bus and treated to product tastings and a training session.

To help promote Thumann's meats to area shoppers, the distributor aired a TV ad in Cleveland announcing that West Point Market carries the line. In addition, the distributor regularly samples the products throughout the store. Moore says another specialty meat supplier has hired a chef to come to West Point Market to demonstrate out-of-the-ordinary uses for its products. "These two purveyors have been making a special effort to assist us in sales," Moore says.

Still, some operators prefer to blow their own horns, taking the "no-name" approach and/or offering private label lines of their own along with national brands. At Montvale, N.J.-based A&P, the relatively new America's Choice private label line is being phased into the deli (and other departments) at all of the chain's stores. Along the same lines, Randall's is experimenting with private label deli meats, says Fraley.

The no-name approach is favored by a leading Midwestern chain. "We call most of our cold meats our own," says the company's deli director. "It takes the price issue out of it. If shoppers like it, you've hooked them into believing it's yours. If I put a brand name on it, when my competitor puts it on sale, they will go to his store for it."

When it comes to establishing signature foodservice lines that set their stores apart from the competition, some operators steal the show. Among them are Richmond, Va.-based Ukrop's Super Markets, Dorothy Lane Markets in Dayton, Ohio, and West Point Market in Arkon, Ohio.

"When people in Richmond think of the best food in town, we want them to think of Ukrop's," said Brian Salus, the chain's former director of foodservice, addressing a workshop at the RBA convention last winter. Salus, now executive vice president at the Virginia Food Group, a foodservice supplier, discussed Ukrop's broad range of centrally prepared menu items, including local favorites such as spoonbread. The company also operates an array of signature food court concepts, including Ukrop's Classic Hand-Tossed Pizza, Dinner for Two, Holiday Meals and Carryout Cafe.

Although two-store Dorothy Lane Markets operates on a smaller scale, its "killer brownies" and other "DLM" bakery and deli items are probably among the most frequently cited examples of supermarket foodservice signaturing.

"Our killer brownies are now being tied in with our box lunches," says Eileen Wilson, the firm's director of food services. "In the last year or so, our wedding cakes [with distinctive designs] have also become a signature item for us."

In the deli Dorothy Lane offers the DLM salad, a marinated vegetable salad with pasta. A recent addition is the Pine Club summer pasta salad, featuring both the recipe and dressing of a local restaurateur. "You can only get this at Dorothy Lane," Wilson says.

That's precisely the point, says Carol Moore, director of food services at West Point Market, which features its own signature lines and products. "They bring customers to our store. It's a destination point," she says. "We try to develop as many reasons for customers to come in as we can."

All signature items at West Point Market display the store's well-known "W" logo. The company uses store signage, copy in store circulars and public radio announcements to promote the products.

Among West Point Market's most popular signature items are Carol's pasta salad, chicken tarragon salad and the frozen lasagna items (including white lasagna), which are part of an oven-ready program.

Refrigerated chicken pot pies are another West Point Market specialty. The pies, which retail at $4.29 each, feature a crust that is custom-baked for the store by a St. Louis-based pie company. The filling is made at store level. "We have a hard time keeping the chicken pot pies in the case," Moore says.

Dominick's Finer Foods in the Chicago area has offered a signature line of refrigerated restaurant quality deli and bakery items under its Chef's Collection banner for about a year, according to Cheryl Robertson, a company spokeswoman. Sold in both service and self-service forms, the prepared items are made in the chain's commissary from recipes developed by its executive chef and executive pastry maker.

"The name Chef's Collection was created to help differentiate it from other items in the deli and communicate the fact that the line is restaurant quality," says Robertson. "Creating Chef's Collection gives us control over the items and the ingredients."
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Title Annotation:use of well-known brands to improve store image
Author:Linsen, Mary Ann
Publication:Progressive Grocer
Date:Nov 1, 1993
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