HEAT SEALING LOCKS IN SUCCESS AT LUNDS

MINNEAPOLIS -- Lunds here sealed the success of its prepared entrees when it switched its packaging a little over a year ago, said company officials.Switching from an overwrapped dome package with a band around it to heat-sealed packaging boosted sales in several ways, some obvious and some not so obvious."It was an instant success. It made all the difference in the world to the success of our International

MINNEAPOLIS -- Lunds here sealed the success of its prepared entrees when it switched its packaging a little over a year ago, said company officials.

Switching from an overwrapped dome package with a band around it to heat-sealed packaging boosted sales in several ways, some obvious and some not so obvious.

"It was an instant success. It made all the difference in the world to the success of our International Chicken entree program. All the chicken entrees have sauces and I think we'd have had problems with the program if we'd stayed with the packaging we had, because leakage was sometimes a problem. This new packaging has also allowed us to add products we would have been hesitant to, such as baked beans," said Laurie Kelly, deli supervisor for the eight-unit retailer.

The assurance that the packages won't leak has pleased customers, and it has spurred Lunds to build bigger displays, which has in turn increased sales substantially, Kelly said.

"We've increased space for our International Chicken from Lunds Kitchen and side dishes by 25%, and our self-service sales of the items are up substantially," she added.

"With our colors -- green and beige -- on the package tops it creates more of a signature display. We saw big sales increases immediately when we did this, probably because the displays looked so nice. Since the packages don't leak, it gave us more latitude with the displays, too," Kelly said.

She explained that when the company was using an over-wrapped dome package, it had to lay the packages flat to prevent leaking. They couldn't be set on a slant or stood on their side, for example, to show off the product inside.

"Just as I believe bigger displays sell more food, I also think it's important for the customer to see the food itself," she said, adding that the simplicity of the top helps show off the food. Just the company's name and one band of checkered design in beige runs across the dark green background. Ingredients and nutritional information are printed on the sides of the bottom part of the container.

"Previously we had been using a black base container with a clear dome and then a band around it. After we put the band on with nutritional information and ingredients, it covered up the whole item. So we had tops printed with our logo and information; they have a rectangular, clear window in the middle," Kelly said.

Asked about the cost of heat-sealed packaging, Kelly said, "We actually saved on labor. So it didn't cost us any more than the previous packages if you figured labor into them. If you overwrap a dome package, you're actually packing it twice and then it doesn't look that appealing."

She pointed out that Lunds has a central commissary where prepared foods are made and then packed in three different package sizes of the dual-ovenable packages: 8, 14 and 16 ounces.

Kelly pointed out that the company had been testing different types of packaging for a year prior to giving its chicken entree program its debut. This packaging program is ideal, too, because packages dished up at the service counter can be sealed with a hand-sealer.

"The machines don't take up that much space in the deli. You just pull a handle down," Kelly said. She said it's important to have entrees and sides in both prepacked form [packed at the company's central kitchen] and have them in bulk at the service counter.

"We've identified deli customers as two different groups: those that want to order and grab-and-go customers," Kelly said. She added that sales in both categories are up substantially.

The chicken program includes boneless butterflied chicken breasts in three varieties: with Chinese glaze, Thai peanut sauce and mesquite barbecue sauce.