KROGER AIMS TO REVIVE CATEGORY WITH NEW PACKAGE

CINCINNATI - Evaporated milk has barely grown in recent years. In the 52 weeks that ended Feb. 19, sales in food stores of evaporated/condensed milk declined 3.6% to $260 million.The Kroger Co. here introduced private-label evaporated milk in a new package that seeks to revive the category.The package, which is called the category's first aseptic container, has a resealable flip-top cap that's designed

CINCINNATI - Evaporated milk has barely grown in recent years. In the 52 weeks that ended Feb. 19, sales in food stores of evaporated/condensed milk declined 3.6% to $260 million.

The Kroger Co. here introduced private-label evaporated milk in a new package that seeks to revive the category.

The package, which is called the category's first aseptic container, has a resealable flip-top cap that's designed to suggest new uses for evaporated milk, said Jeff Kellar, vice president of strategic business development for Tetra Pak, the Vernon Hills, Ill., packaging company that supplies the container.

The 12-ounce containers of Kroger-brand evaporated milk with added vitamin A and D are available in about 2,000 stores, Kellar said. Kroger declined to comment.

Tetra Pak studies show that people use evaporated milk in several ways, including for baking and as a coffee creamer. The goal is to expand the applications based on the convenience of the container.

"We're hoping that by bringing some innovation to the category, we can generate growth," Kellar said.

The rollout comes on the heels of regional tests that began at Kroger 18 months ago. The tests resulted from Kroger's participation on Tetra Pak's U.S. Retail Executives Aseptic Council, a packaging think-tank, as part of a study on the value of an aseptic package in the category.

Tetra Pak created the council in 2002 to monitor product-packaging trends. Among other responsibilities, the council analyzes food products and packaging; identifies products that can add value to consumers and retailers if packaged aseptically; and expands the use of aseptic packages.

Other companies represented on the council are Safeway, Winn-Dixie, Supervalu, Topco and Ahold USA.

Evaporated milk was chosen because it's dominated by cans and has grown little over the last few years, Kellar said.

"Evaporated milk is one of those categories that is exclusively driven by cans," he said.

During the tests, Kroger used shelf-talkers and floor ads to tout the advantages of the flip-top closures. "Stays fresh from one recipe to the next," the ads read. "Monday's cookies...Saturday's potatoes...Wednesday's cake...Sunday's coffee."

In-store demos will be conducted next month in 300 stores, according to Tetra Pak.