NICHIREI FORMS NEW COMPANY

SEATTLE -- Nichirei Corp. of Tokyo has formed a new company to crank up the marketing of its prepared foods to the supermarket industry, officials at the new company said.Passport Cuisine International was formed from the prepared-foods division of Nichirei Foods America, Fife, Wash., Nichirei's American arm. The new firm has been set up as a separate legal entity, based here.As part of the restructuring,

SEATTLE -- Nichirei Corp. of Tokyo has formed a new company to crank up the marketing of its prepared foods to the supermarket industry, officials at the new company said.

Passport Cuisine International was formed from the prepared-foods division of Nichirei Foods America, Fife, Wash., Nichirei's American arm. The new firm has been set up as a separate legal entity, based here.

As part of the restructuring, the manufacture of prepared foods at the Fife location will be transferred to a new facility in Redmond, Wash., later this spring, said Mark Phelps, who was promoted to vice president of marketing and sales for the new company. He had been director of marketing and sales of the prepared-foods division of Nichirei Foods America.

"This move will enable us to put more focus on new product development," Phelps said. "It represents a significant opportunity for us to grow our business in the supermarket home-meal replacement arena."

Passport Cuisine International will continue to run prepared-foods manufacturing facilities in four other locations, which had been operated as a division of Nichirei Foods America. The company's manufacturing facility in Redmond will be dedicated to making elements of Bento Express, a boxed Japanese lunch program, Phelps said. They include pot stickers, spring rolls and shumai, which are Asian dumplings that contain meat and vegetables in a light flour wrapper.

The new company has hired regional sales managers in deli: Michael Eaton, for the Northwest; Louis Mango, East Coast; and Frank Weise, Southwest.

Eaton was previously a regional manager at Stone Mill Foods, Portland, Ore. Mango was vice president of sales, Perry County Foods, Birmingham, Ala. Weise was a regional manager in the prepared-foods division of Nichirei America Foods. They all report to Beth McDonald, director of deli sales, who had been a deli executive with the Seattle division of Safeway Stores, Pleasanton, Calif.

The new company's brands of prepared foods are Bento Express, Passport Cuisine and Nichirei. As reported in SN (July 15, 1996), the Bento Express concept was launched last summer in the Seattle division of Safeway.

Industry observers also have told SN that chains on the East Coast have recently begun offering Passport Cuisine products in selected stores. They include Acme Markets, Malvern, Pa.; Shaw's Supermarkets, East Bridgewater, Mass.; and Genuardi's Family Markets, Norristown, Pa., sources said.