A&P TESTS WATERS WITH PREPACKAGED SUSHI

MONTVALE, N.J. -- A&P is testing prepackaged sushi in several stores under the A&P and Food Emporium banners in the New York metropolitan area."Food Emporium has been carrying sushi for a couple of months," said Bill Vitulli, vice president of community and government relations for A&P, based here. "It is being tested in a select number of stores."Merchandisers have the option of displaying the fresh

MONTVALE, N.J. -- A&P is testing prepackaged sushi in several stores under the A&P and Food Emporium banners in the New York metropolitan area.

"Food Emporium has been carrying sushi for a couple of months," said Bill Vitulli, vice president of community and government relations for A&P, based here. "It is being tested in a select number of stores."

Merchandisers have the option of displaying the fresh sushi in either the seafood department or the salad bar, according to Vitulli.

He would not disclose the price point range of the sushi, which is supplied by an outside source, but said that it is "moderately priced -- more reasonable than you would think."

On a visit to an A&P unit in Montvale this week, SN spotted the sushi packaged in a clear clamshell container, displayed in the self-service fresh seafood case, with a point-of-sale overhead sign promoting "Sushi made fresh daily."

At the time of the visit, six 1-inch crab rolls were priced at $3.79, and six 1-inch avocado and cucumber rolls were $2.99. Other varieties listed on the sign but not available at the time of the visit were shrimp tempura rolls, California rolls and crab and cucumber rolls.

Garnished with ginger, wasabi and a pack of soy sauce, the sushi is manufactured and packed locally by TK's Japanese Gourmet, according to the packaging. Officials at the supplier, listed in Fairlawn, N.J., could not be reached for comment.

In a Food Emporium store located on Manhattan's Upper East Side, sushi was available in a frozen seafood case adjacent to the fresh seafood case. Encased in white cardboard packaging with a clear window, six rolls of sushi came in a black plastic molded tray accompanied by ginger and soy sauce. The 6.5-ounce packages were priced at $5.49, and salmon and cream cheese or vegetarian varieties were available, and were packaged by Sushi 1-2-3 in Gloucester, Mass., which, according to the product labels, also packages crab, sushi sampler and shrimp varieties.

Vitulli said that it is too soon to tell how successful the sushi program will be.

A merchandising source for A&P had a more positive view, however. "We've had some good acceptance of sushi in a few stores," said the source, who asked not to be named. "Of course, not every item is good for every store, but so far it is doing surprisingly well."

Sushi is more than a test item, he said. "We're going to keep it in there. We're using a couple of different kinds [of sushi] and now we just have to identify 'is it the right kind' and for which stores. It's like a lot of other things -- you have to tailor your line of products to the area."