Supervalu Looking to Snag that Meal Ticket with New Line

The grocer launched a 150-item store brand program across departments as a draw for customers looking for restaurant-quality meal makings at home.

Supervalu Inc. aims to pile on the hard times for restaurants in its operating areas, via an ambitious new signature program of what it calls "restaurant-inspired" prepared foods under the exclusive Culinary Circle brand.

The new line is available throughout Supervalu's corporately-owned store portfolio, under the banners Acme, Albertsons, bigg's, Cub Foods, Farm Fresh, Hornbacher's, Jewel-Osco, Lucky, Shaw's/Star Market, Shop 'n Save, and Shoppers Food & Pharmacy. The grocer won't leave its independent retail accounts out of the fun either, a Supervalu official told Progressive Grocer.

Supervalu said it developed the program, initially featuring more than 150 deli, bakery, frozen food, and center store items, to offer affordable, quality meals at restaurant quality levels, but for consumption at home. Offerings run the meal component gamut from on-the-go meals, hors d'oeuvres, and gourmet spreads, to high-end desserts and artisan breads, the grocer said.

Supervalu said it will price the Culinary Circle foods approximately 20 to 25 percent below casual restaurant food, and about 10 to 15 percent lower than premium national brands.

The retail-wholesaler is also offering the program to its base of independent retailers, Chad Terrell, Culinary Circle brand manager, told Progressive Grocer.

"The product line began appearing on shelves during first week of August, and we've ramped up to where we're at today, which is 100 percent distribution," Terrell said.

The exec claimed that out of the gate the new proprietary line is being very well received. "We've received a lot of very good feedback from our banners, and have thus far only heard good comments," he reported.

About 80 of the 150 products in the line are in the deli and prepared foods departments, said Terrell, including entrees, fresh prepared side dishes, soups, salads, and epicurean butters and dips.

"The neat thing about this line is that all of the products all merchandised together in kiosks and display units, so consumers can come in the door, grab what they like, and be on their way," said Terrell-much the same way as they're accustomed to doing at fast-casual restaurants.

While Supervalu's regional banners will customize the program to fit local markets' needs, the company said it will support the national launch with a centralized comprehensive marketing plan, including radio, strategically focused Web site banner ads, and in-store activity.

Terrell emphasized that in-store excitement is a "very critical" strategy for the rollout, and Supervalu will fan the flames with demos, extensive in-store signage, and POS materials that will tell the story of the Culinary Circle brand and invite trial. "Getting product in consumers' mouths will be key," he said.

Supervalu will support Culinary Circle with a dedicated Web site of the same name, where consumers will have access to recipes for appetizers, entrees, and desserts that they can create by combining Culinary Circle products with everyday grocery items. Supervalu said many of these dishes can be made in as little as 10 minutes.

Supervalu said it levied significant research and consumer insights in the development phase for the line. It joins several other signature brands, such as Wild Harvest, Baby Basics, Java Delight, Homelife, and Shoppers Value in the Supervalu portfolio.

The products in the Culinary Circle line include:
    --  Pork Carnitas Enchilada Casserole
    --  Rotisserie Chicken
    --  Chicken Marsala over Linguini
    Side Dishes
    --  Rosemary Garlic Roasted Potatoes
    --  Oven Roasted Vegetables
    --  Chicken Noodle
    --  Tuscan Tomato & Vegetable
Ultra Thin Chicken Alfredo
--  Ultra Thin Margherita
    --  Rising Crust Spicy Italian Sausage
    Frozen Desserts
    --  Pineapple Upside Down Cake
    --  White & Dark Chocolate Mousse Cake
    --  Key Lime White Chocolate Homestyle Crisp Cookies
    --  White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Homestyle Crisp Cookies
    --  Chocolate Brownie Soft & Chewy Cookies
    --  Chocolate Chip Lava Cookies
    --  Jamaican Style Jerk
    --  Raspberry Chipotle
    --  Shanghai Five Spice Teriyaki
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