SAFEWAY'S TURKEY METHOD PUTS HAPPY IN THANKSGIVING

Once again, the Thanksgiving holiday is all but upon us. So let's talk about some turkey.Specifically, let's talk about what a Safeway promotion has done to lift turkey from its near-commodity status to being the object of a little buzz. Safeway has focused a promotional effort around a recipe that shows the way to cook an entire turkey in just two hours.Moreover, Safeway is promoting not just the

Once again, the Thanksgiving holiday is all but upon us. So let's talk about some turkey.

Specifically, let's talk about what a Safeway promotion has done to lift turkey from its near-commodity status to being the object of a little buzz. Safeway has focused a promotional effort around a recipe that shows the way to cook an entire turkey in just two hours.

Moreover, Safeway is promoting not just the recipe, but locating needed ingredients together in stores so shoppers can pick up all that's needed at one place. In addition to stores under the Safeway banner, the recipe and merchandising strategy is in use at other Safeway-owned banners.

As you'll see by reading the news article on Page 29, the recipe calls for just a few simple ingredients. Apart from the frozen turkey itself -- up to 22 pounds -- food ingredients are pepper, kosher salt and olive oil. At some stores, most of these ingredients are private label.

The selling point behind this promotion, of course, is convenience: "The introduction of the two-hour turkey recipe eliminates all-day cooking on Thanksgiving and gives our customers more time to spend with their family and friends," one Safeway executive told SN.

The cooking method, said to have been developed for Safeway by Sunset Magazine, achieves its magic by eliminating some traditional steps associated with holiday turkeys. To cite a few examples, the bird isn't stuffed or trussed, shallow foil pans are used, high baking temperature is used and legs are removed for further cooking after the two hours expire. In actuality, this cooking method, or a close version, has appeared in cookbooks for at least a decade, according to a citation in the New York Times last week. Indeed, a two-hour or less recipe appeared in that newspaper last week.

Regardless of its provenance, this cooking plan has generated quite a bit of favorable publicity for Safeway. For instance, a news feature published earlier this month in the Washington Post told the tale of a test cookoff. Here's what was reported: A tester baked two turkeys, one using traditional methods and a 325-degree oven, the other using the Safeway method, which calls for a 475-degree oven. In less than two hours, the Safeway-method turkey was done. The control turkey took 3 hours and 45 minutes to cook. As you'll see in the SN news article this week, cited higher in this column, Safeway's turkey-cooking initiative is an element of the chain's "Ingredients for Life" promotion. The concept is to shift attention away from price and toward fulfilling customers' needs.

This is all to the good. Not only can the supermarket industry well use the favorable publicity generated by the turkey promotion, but it offers an example of solution selling at its best: Safeway identified a need and aggregated ingredients required to fulfill the need. It doesn't need to be much more complex than that.

Now, let's refocus from micro solutions to macro solutions. Take a look at the news feature referenced on Page 1. That feature analyzes what's happening in five high-growth areas of the country and how retailers are catering to shoppers' needs.