FRESH FOODS HEADLINE HEALTHY MENU PROMOTION AT PIGGYLY WIGGLY

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. -- A healthy menu promotion featuring fresh foods, a noted cookbook author and an integrated approach to merchandising is paying dividends for Piggly Wiggly Supermarkets.Every week, stores promote "Fresh Meal Appeal," with simple recipes and a meal planner put together by M.J. Smith, a registered dietician and author of books including "All American Low-Fat Meals in Minutes" and "366

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. -- A healthy menu promotion featuring fresh foods, a noted cookbook author and an integrated approach to merchandising is paying dividends for Piggly Wiggly Supermarkets.

Every week, stores promote "Fresh Meal Appeal," with simple recipes and a meal planner put together by M.J. Smith, a registered dietician and author of books including "All American Low-Fat Meals in Minutes" and "366 Low-Fat Brand-Name Recipes in Minutes." Smith's color picture with menu and recipes are featured in store circulars, on counter cards and shelf-talkers, at Piggly Wiggly's Web site and on radio advertising, including in-store radio announcements featuring the cookbook author. The retailer produced two radio spots in which Smith mentions Piggly Wiggly by name.

In the stores, consumers find the suggested menu items specially marked, value-priced and grouped together. Bundling the products was a real departure for the retailer, according to officials.

"We've done cross merchandising, but in the past it's mostly been in frozen foods with vegetables and entrees," said Michael Houser, vice chairman and executive vice president at Fresh Brands Inc., which owns and operates 19 corporate Piggly Wiggly stores in Wisconsin and northern Illinois, eight Dick's Supermarkets in Wisconsin, and also services more than 70 franchises under the Piggly Wiggly banner.

"This is the first time we've had a healthy emphasis on meat, produce and seafood. The only challenge is refrigeration."

Piggly Wiggly kicked off the promotion with a menu featuring Salmon Glazed with Sassy Red Sauce, an entree that serves four, featuring a sauce made with just four everyday ingredients.

The recommended side dishes were twice-baked potatoes, cole slaw and fresh pineapple chunks.

The Pig set aside a full page in its store circular to highlight the menu and menu items and introduce consumers to Smith with a profile and color photo -- "the face of freshness," the ad reads. Farm-raised salmon fillets were promoted at $3.98 a pound, while whole pineapples were advertised at $4.49 each, and packages of frozen twice-baked potatoes were on sale for $3 for two 10-ounce packages.

Using sales data, that particular menu has received one of the most enthusiastic response from consumers to date, said Houser.

"In just the first week, we saw double-digit increases in sales on all the products involved in the menu, particularly the salmon," Houser told SN.

"Many customers are still very unsure of how to prepare fish, and by providing a recipe you ultimately solve this dilemma for them."

Furthermore, the retailer has managed to sustain sales increases on other featured menu items, he said.

Subsequent menus featured Boneless Sirloin Tip with Peppercorn and Mushroom Sauce, accompanied by a packaged rice and vegetable mix, fresh baked French bread, a salad of packaged romaine lettuce with grape tomatoes, and dessert combining fresh oranges with lemon sherbet; Baked Potato Breakfast Casserole with Ham and Bacon, joined by diced apples, mandarin orange slices and pecans, raisin bran muffins, tomato juice and fresh brewed coffee; and Super Chicken and Pepper Jack Quesadillas, with spicy refried beans cooked in the Crock-Pot, apple slices with light lemon chiffon yogurt as a dip and "Touchdown Punch" -- a blend of cranberry/raspberry juice and lemon-lime soda.

The recipes are designed to be simple in both preparation and ingredients, Houser said.

"Sometimes you see recipes and you cannot buy all the products in the stores," he said. "There's nothing exotic here. We were concerned with using tested recipes, using products we had available in all of our stores. These are things everyone can cook, and cook easily."