FOOD LION'S FRESH FOCUS

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Food Lion last week launched a month-long "Festival of Fresh" here to call attention to the improvements the chain has made to its stores in this market, particularly in the perishables departments.The company spent the last 10 months revamping its 68 stores in the Raleigh-Durham area -- known as the Triangle -- with a more colorful decor package and a new merchandise assortment,

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Food Lion last week launched a month-long "Festival of Fresh" here to call attention to the improvements the chain has made to its stores in this market, particularly in the perishables departments.

The company spent the last 10 months revamping its 68 stores in the Raleigh-Durham area -- known as the Triangle -- with a more colorful decor package and a new merchandise assortment, backed by behind-the-scenes changes like employee training and enhanced quality-assurance efforts.

"We tried to create a fresh, new look, particularly in our fresh offerings," said Rick Anicetti, president and chief executive officer, Food Lion, during a store tour he gave to SN last week.

The remodeled stores position the bakery and deli to the right of the entrance, followed by the expanded produce section along the right-hand wall of the store.

The deli offers a wider selection of meats and cheeses than Food Lion has offered in the past, including Sara Lee Premium lunch meats, Land O Lakes cheeses and imported varieties of Swiss, blue and Brie cheese. Another feature that has been added to the delis is a self-service area for hot prepared foods, replacing the service bar for such products as chicken wings. The bakery includes a larger selection of fresh-baked breads, the company said.

In produce, the company has added about 50 new items, and in many stores some organic products have been added. Certain stores also will carry increased varieties of peppers to appeal to Hispanic consumers.

Also new to Food Lion in the Raleigh market are tropical fruit carts, which include bananas on one side and an assortment of more exotic fruits on the other. Another freestanding display table in the produce section is devoted entirely to various types of tomatoes.

"This table is used in every one of our stores to highlight the variety we have," said Anicetti, noting that one of the goals of the remodels is to improve customers' perceptions about the variety of products Food Lion offers.

In addition to the expanded product assortments and new display vehicles, the chain is using more padded shelving to minimize damage to fresh fruits and prolong their shelf life.

Across from the produce section Food Lion offers its new Nature's Place organic and natural grocery sections, which include up to about 40 feet of dry grocery products like cereal and organic juices, plus a 6-foot cooler containing several varieties of soy milk and other perishable natural foods, and three freezer doors with natural and organic frozen dinners and vegetables.

The meat section also has seen some changes, with a renewed emphasis on service. Signs near the windows encourage customers to ask the meatcutters for special cuts. Anicetti said Food Lion also would promote the service in its advertising.

Food Lion also upgraded its meat offering, adding Angus Pride prime beef and organic chicken.

Heat-and-eat meats also are displayed differently, with packaging standing on end so its illustrated cover is more readily visible to shoppers as they pass.

Other features that differ from traditional Food Lion stores include an expanded wine section, which offers up to 1,200 varieties and houses the chain's first refrigerated wine display cases. Some units also will receive kiosks that allow customers to search for food-wine pairings.

The wine section in one of the stores visited by SN, which was larger than typical Food Lion outlets, had a store-within-a-store format set off by track lighting and faux-wood flooring.

Elsewhere in the store, displays of bulk sale items like cases of beer and soft drinks are positioned on plastic pallets, which Anicetti said helps preserve the low-price image.