DELUCA AND PERDUE TEAM KICKS OFF IN NEW ENGLAND

MIDDLEBURY, Conn. -- New England supermarkets will be the first to sell products resulting from last summer's link-up between Perdue Farms, Salisbury, Md., and DeLuca, Inc. here.Four new co-branded chicken-based, fresh, never-frozen entrees, produced at the DeLuca facility hit the market this week and most of the major chains in New England are preparing to stock them, DeLuca officials said. The chicken

MIDDLEBURY, Conn. -- New England supermarkets will be the first to sell products resulting from last summer's link-up between Perdue Farms, Salisbury, Md., and DeLuca, Inc. here.

Four new co-branded chicken-based, fresh, never-frozen entrees, produced at the DeLuca facility hit the market this week and most of the major chains in New England are preparing to stock them, DeLuca officials said. The chicken products join the lineup of Ed & Joan DeLuca brand Italian entrees which are carried by all the major supermarkets in New England.

All this is good news in the home-meal replacement arena, retailers told SN.

"These items fit into what we're trying to do to, supply meals at home. We look forward to carrying these. With Perdue's advertising, they should be successful," said Dan Lescoe, senior vice president, sales and marketing, Big Y Foods, Springfield, Mass.

The four new entrees -- chicken a la king with egg noodles, chicken parmigiana with rotini, chicken cacciatore over linguine and chicken lasagna -- carry the Perdue logo at the top, left corner of the package and the Ed & Joan DeLuca logo at the bottom, right.

Conversely, packages of Italian products, such as meat lasagna and meatballs in the company's existing product line, will carry the Ed & Joan DeLuca logo at the top left corner and the Perdue logo at the bottom right.

"That's to tie the two companies together. There will always be some type of co-branding," said Jeff Zwicker, president and chief executive officer of DeLuca, Inc., which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Perdue.

The co-branded chicken-based products went into distribution a week ago. "We expect full distribution in New England within three weeks. All the majors have at least verbally authorized the new products," said Zwicker.

"The Ed & Joan DeLuca brand right now is in a total of about 750 supermarket units in New England," he added.

The chicken-based, co-branded products were introduced and sampled last month at the FMI MealSolutions '98 show and conference in Tampa, Fla.

For the most part, Ed & Joan DeLuca brand products have been merchandised in supermarkets' deli departments or in their meals centers if they have one, Zwicker said. That will be true of the co-branded products as well, he added.

In January, four new Italian entrees will be added to the co-branded line, bringing the line's total to 19 items.

"By the second half of next year, we expect to have 25 to 30 co-branded entrees on the market. Some of them will be chicken-based," Zwicker said.

Also coming sometime in 1999 will be a co-branded advertising campaign, the DeLuca, Inc. executive added.

"We're exploring several marketing initiatives right now," he said.

All the co-branded products are currently being produced at the DeLuca facility. At the time Perdue announced that it would acquire DeLuca, Inc. [as reported in SN, 6/22/98], Perdue officials said that purchasing DeLuca would give Perdue a jump-start in the meals business.

"We've been working toward this fresh meals concept for a couple of years, and DeLuca, Inc. has great technology and experience with shelf life and quality," Jim Perdue, chairman of the privately owned chicken processing company, told SN earlier.

And the tie-in to such a well-known brand as Perdue is bound to boost sales for the whole product line, including the existing items in the Joan & Ed DeLuca line, DeLuca officials said.

"The brands displayed together will certainly bring new life and new sales to the fresh, prepared foods case," said DeLuca, Inc. founder Ed DeLuca.