RETAILERS INTRODUCE PREMIUM SIGNATURE DELI LINES

PLEASANTON, Calif. -- Safeway Inc. here has introduced Primo Taglio -- a signature line of premium deli meats and cheese -- into selected units. Similarly, Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. subsidiary King Soopers, Denver, Colo., has introduced their own line of premium meats called Private Selections.The rollouts are the latest in a trend among retailers who are reinvigorating their fresh departments and

PLEASANTON, Calif. -- Safeway Inc. here has introduced Primo Taglio -- a signature line of premium deli meats and cheese -- into selected units. Similarly, Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. subsidiary King Soopers, Denver, Colo., has introduced their own line of premium meats called Private Selections.

The rollouts are the latest in a trend among retailers who are reinvigorating their fresh departments and boosting the presence of private-label items in key perishables departments such as the deli.

At Safeway, the Primo Taglio line consists of higher-quality product, which contains less fat and additives than other brands carried in the deli departments. It was described as an extension of their Safeway Select line of deli meats.

"They're really top-quality meats," said a store-level source. "They contain less preservatives than what we already offered, which was very low in preservatives to begin with."

Literally "first cut" in Italian, Primo Taglio offers Safeway customers a mix of updated products and old standards including all-natural, pan roasted turkey; salsa turkey; corned beef; pastrami; roast beef; black forest ham; and horseradish cheddar cheese. Store-level associates told SN not all stores carry the entire line, though they might offer specific items which are strong sellers in their area.

To enforce the "authentic old world" quality of the meats and cheese, the Primo Taglio logo printed in Safeway circulars features an old-world chef in his kitchen, complete with meats strung from the ceiling, who has just made the "first cut" into a roast.

In line with the premium status of the line, the deli products carry higher price points. While a recent Safeway circular advertised several Primo Taglio items, including the pan roasted turkey, at $5.99 per pound for Safeway club members, the everyday price for a pound is $7.49 versus $6.99 for a pound of Butterball mesquite smoked turkey or $5.49 for a pound of Safeway Select skinless boneless turkey. One store also reported charging $1 extra for sandwiches made with the Primo Taglio products and $3 to $5 more for party trays.

Store-level associates maintained the product is worth the price.

"[Customers] can come into any Safeway and sample [the Primo Taglio products] to taste the difference," said one associate. "They really are very good."

Safeway will continue to carry all brands it had in the past, including their own Safeway Select, said the employee.

At King Soopers, a deli department worker called the new Private Selections label a "high-quality" line featuring meats which are "98% fat free and all-natural."

She added there are no processed jellies or other additives which are sometimes found in deli items such as turkey roll. The line consists of oven-roasted, honey-smoked or mesquite-smoked turkey breast; and honey or natural-juice smoked ham.

Branding throughout the supermarket departments continues to be a hot trend as many retailers attempt to surpass the quality and sales volume of nationally manufactured and distributed brands. At Safeway, the Safeway Select line is prevalent throughout the store, boasting more than 650 SKUs, from chocolate chip cookies to imported pasta to deli meats.

According to Brian Salus, president of Richmond, Va.-based Salus & Associates, one of the major problems that faces retailers is that branding is new territory for them, another responsibility added to the chore of operating an entire store, whereas the manufacturers they may be competing with have nothing but their brand to worry about and therefore devote all of their time to its development.

"Retailers use branding or private labeling to create a niche for themselves," said Salus. "It allows them to create a situation where they are the only place a customer can get a certain product."

He added that what many retailers don't realize is the degree of dedication necessary to successfully launch a brand. And, once it becomes available, quality and value must be maintained.

"It takes a lot of time and effort and funds to create and develop a brand," he said. "It isn't as simple as creating a logo. It's making a long term commitment."