PUBLIX INTROS FRESH LINE OF PREPACK MEAL ENTREES

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Publix Super Markets has just launched a line of fully cooked, pre-packed entrees under its own label, and is giving them a showy send-off here in this super-competitive market.The line, with a preponderance of comfort foods, includes the likes of meatloaf with gravy, homestyle beef tips, sliced pork loin and sliced, roast turkey breast with gravy. Shredded beef and shredded pork

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Publix Super Markets has just launched a line of fully cooked, pre-packed entrees under its own label, and is giving them a showy send-off here in this super-competitive market.

The line, with a preponderance of comfort foods, includes the likes of meatloaf with gravy, homestyle beef tips, sliced pork loin and sliced, roast turkey breast with gravy. Shredded beef and shredded pork in barbecue sauce, packaged in square containers, also are part of the new menu.

SN learned of the Lakeland, Fla.-based chain's new venture into meal solutions during a store visit in the outskirts of Nashville, where a display of the new items easily caught the eye of customers as they entered the store.

Inside a pair of four-foot, reach-in cases, angled so they're almost in the line of traffic just inside and slightly to the left of the entrance, the family-sized entrees -- packed in microwaveable containers with cardboard covers that feature photos of the entree inside -- sit side by side with a couple of rows of Bob Evans-brand mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese. The display itself makes a colorful statement, but balloons also rise from the case and behind the case. The entree containers, with their colorful covers facing forward, rise five to six feet high, making their own patchwork wall of color.

Signs on stands at the display read, "Just heat and serve. Choose from 8 varieties," and, "No time? Try our new heat & serve entrees. Ready in 20 minutes or less." Another sign says, "Publix entrees also are low in carbs, 9 grams or less per serving."

While prices vary for items in the line, all the entrees displayed in the up-front case were one price, $7.99. That's for 1 pound, 8 ounces. But back in the meat department, another display of the items featured varieties with a lower or higher retail. For example, sliced roast pork loin was $6.99; seasoned prime rib, $8.99; and seasoned chicken in barbecue sauce, $5.99.

There, a friendly associate was demoing homestyle beef tips in gravy. SN found the product tasty, and a customer -- a woman with a cartful of groceries -- also responded positively.

The Publix associate offered this suggestion: "The tips and gravy are particularly good with Bob Evans mashed potatoes. They've just come out with roasted garlic mashed potatoes that are great with this."

At another Publix unit here, the new line was displayed with other branded, fully cooked entrees, in a length of about four feet in a five-tier case. There, too, Bob Evans mashed potatoes were part of the ensemble.

A source at that store said the Publix-labeled entrees, under the direction of the meat department, are made by an outside manufacturer to Publix's specifications. This is certainly not the sprawling Southeast chain's first venture into ready-to-eat meal components, but previously, most of its entrees and sides, like its extensive selection of pre-packed, single-serving potato salads and other sides, had been produced at its central facility in Lakeland and were merchandised in the deli/food-service area of the store.

The source added that the rollout of the line to more than 800 stores was completed within the last month, and includes all of the chain's divisions in Florida, Nashville and Atlanta.