Made To Order

Retailers find success collaborating on custom concepts for deli prepared foods.

As supermarket deli departments continue to grow in importance for retailers, especially in the area of prepared foods, it's important for savvy grocers to forge strong relationships with their trading partners to keep their delis fresh and unique, and make them go-to destinations for shoppers.

Chains like Harveys (a Delhaize America banner) and Shop 'N Save (part of Supervalu Inc.) are finding success doing just that, most recently with Tyson Foods. To further perfect their deli meal strategies, these two retailers have offered up their stores as "living laboratories" for innovative products and merchandising concepts.

"Harveys Deli to Go does a lot of foodservice items through Tyson currently, so there was a trust already established," says Michael Duncan, director of banner merchandising for deli and bakery for Harveys in Nashville, Ga. That trust led to the introduction at Harveys of the Tyson Deli Market line of hot prepared foods, including Buffalo wings, chicken fajitas and pasta.

"We were able to look at all available products, match those with regional taste profiles, along with understanding Tyson capabilities, and come up with the initial offerings," Duncan explains. The Tyson team "did store tours; discussed our customer taste profiles, regional differences and retail thresholds; and then went to work to deliver."

Based on that input, the Tyson folks developed products especially for Harveys and convened a taste testing so Duncan and his team could select the final products to be launched in their deli.

"Tyson has been able to hit on all metrics with this new product line," Duncan says. "The packaging is crisp and trendy. The overall taste is savory in scope, with great eye appeal for the consumer."

Duncan says that Harveys Deli to Go "is all about quality and creating a true point of difference at a value price," and Tyson is helping the grocer stay true to that mission, with products that are "customer-focused, and [ready in] three minutes or less." With Tyson's care and focus on detail, Duncan says, its Deli Market line "should prove to be a winner in almost all deli operations."

Similarly, Tyson assisted Shop 'N Save in launching the products. "We're always looking for new ways to meet our customers' needs at Shop 'N Save, so we are committed to testing the product line through June at all of our stores with deli departments," says Karen May, external communications manager for the St. Louis-based Supervalu division. "We've selected 12 items from the Tyson assortment, taking into consideration our current offerings, as well as recommendations from Tyson, and we're building brand awareness through sampling at store level. As we review the category assortment, we will make adjustments to the product mix as needed."

Feel-good Food

Mary Stiles, senior product manager for foodservice marketing at Spring-dale, Ark.-based Tyson, explains that the Tyson Deli Market line was developed based on multiple research studies and with the understanding that the brand must fit consumer needs and behavior.

"Prepared foods purchases are driven by emotional attributes," she notes. "Specific research on Tyson Deli Market products found consumers would feel good about spending their money on these products and would be proud to serve it to their family. As innovators in the prepared foods category, it is not enough to understand the consumer alone. To achieve success, deli department needs must also be taken into consideration: Will the concept be simply translated at the store level? How much time and training will it take to launch the new product line? How many resources will need to be invested to maintain the program?"

The "living laboratory" concept allows Tyson "to understand if we hit the mark for ease of execution," Stiles says. "We designed small case packs that allow delis to sell through the entire case and avoid creating shrink, but we are trying to understand if eight packages per master case is the right size."

Benchmarks of common products sold in the deli are also identified at the outset of a project. "Consumers' purchase interest of the new products will be gauged against the purchase interest of the benchmark," Stiles says. "Once we enter into the living laboratory, we will again use the benchmark products to compare movement of the new product placement."

Stiles says the efforts by Harveys and Shop 'N Save "allow us to capture real-life situations."

For Duncan's part, the satisfaction is mutual. "I appreciate Tyson and all they continue to do for my business around innovation, collaboration and partnership," he says. PG

"We were able to look at all available products, match those with regional taste profiles and come up with the initial offerings."

—Michael Duncan, Harveys

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