TARGET SHOOTS FOR CHIC FOOD IMAGE

KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- Target Stores is striving to make the food component of its SuperTarget outlets more exciting by employing many of the same marketing strategies that worked for its traditional discount stores, an executive from the company told attendees at the Western Michigan University Food Marketing Conference here last week.As it does with apparel and housewares, Target is augmenting its

KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- Target Stores is striving to make the food component of its SuperTarget outlets more exciting by employing many of the same marketing strategies that worked for its traditional discount stores, an executive from the company told attendees at the Western Michigan University Food Marketing Conference here last week.

As it does with apparel and housewares, Target is augmenting its low-priced grocery offerings with foodstuffs from celebrity chefs and other well-known food personalities to create "buzz" about the grocery side of the business, said Greg Duppler, senior vice president and general merchandise manager, Target, Minneapolis, who is overseeing the expansion of the SuperTarget format.

"These cool, culinary experts make shopping at SuperTarget fun -- much more fun than shopping at your local supermarket," Duppler told the audience of retailers, suppliers and students from the university's food-marketing program.

Late last year, the company began adding food products from celebrity chef Ming Tsai under the Blue Ginger brand, named after his acclaimed restaurant in Wellesley, Mass. The offerings include cooking ingredients and specialty foods with influences from Asian, French and American culinary traditions. The chef previously had created a line of cooking utensils for Target.

More recently, the company began focusing on marketing its wine offerings with celebrity sommelier Andrea Immer. In one recent promotion, the company featured an endcap with her wine-buying guidebook, "Great Tastes Made Simple," which offers suggestions for food-and-wine pairings.

In another promotion for the SuperTarget wine departments, the company placed a flight of wines selected by Immer in specially designed crates bearing the Target logo and had them stowed inside the limousines of all the Golden Globe award nominees.

"That's the kind of buzz no marketing budget can buy," Duppler said.

He didn't comment specifically on the financial performance of the food departments at SuperTarget.

A recent article in Business Week questioned the viability of the format, saying that the stores are not drawing customers with enough frequency to support a full grocery program.

Duppler reiterated the company's previous statements that it planned to open 30 to 35 SuperTargets per year. The chain today counts 102 SuperTargets among its 1,167 locations.

Although the company uses the cachet of celebrity names to market and merchandise its food offerings, Target remains committed to value, Duppler said.

As an example, he said the stores carry Dom Perignon, the French wine that can fetch more than $200 per bottle, but they also offer white zinfandel for $4.99.

Duppler also said the chain strives to tailor its food offerings to the individual markets it serves.

"Getting the local tastes just right is just as important as having a wide assortment and low prices when it comes to creating the one-stop grocery shopping experience," Duppler said. "Micromarketing is all about staying attuned to local-market tastes."