CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- Winn-Dixie Stores, Jacksonville, Fla., reintroduced McCormick/ Schilling Spices to consumers in this city, the newest battlefield for the supermarket giant.
In a full-page ad featuring an assortment of products and discount coupons, Winn-Dixie heralded: "McCormick Spices are Back in Chattanooga!" The promotion -- which ran earlier this month -- corresponded to the grand opening of the first of five Winn-Dixie Marketplace stores scheduled to open in the area.
According to industry observers and brokers, Red Food Stores, the previous Chattanooga market leader, carried McCormick products. But when the Red Food stores were converted to Bi-Lo units following the purchase of Red Food by Bi-Lo's parent company, Ahold USA, Parsippany, N.J., shoppers were left without a major chain carrying the spice category's No. 1 manufacturer.
The advertisement was a "marketing ploy," said a source close to Winn-Dixie, noting that the chain engaged in a little bit of friendly gamesmanship at the expense of its retailing rival.
"Winn-Dixie is telling Chattanooga, 'We're putting an item back that you had available in the past and was taken away from you,' " said an Atlanta-area broker.
While Winn-Dixie instantly may be the biggest name in town where McCormick spices are concerned, it's not the only McCormick vendor, according to Bob Harris, the manufacturer's new business development manager. He said there are some small independents who also carry the brand.
"[The promotion] was really a way to support the Chattanooga marketplace," explained Harris. "The opening of the Winn-Dixie store gave us an opportunity to provide local marketing to support not only Winn-Dixie, but our other retailers."
It's also an example of how the company supplements its national marketing programs with local support, he said. "And, because we don't have [our products] in the major-share retailer, which is Bi-Lo, we wanted to let consumers know that not only can they buy it from their independent supermarkets, but there's also a major chain carrying it."
While officials at Winn-Dixie's Atlanta division -- which is managing the Chattanooga operation -- declined to comment on the promotion, a store-level staffer told SN the sale was quite successful in moving spice products.
In the ad, Winn-Dixie stated its spices are 20% off the suggested retail price every day.
The ad featured a 4-ounce can of McCormick black pepper that retailed for $1.98, a 1-ounce bottle of pure vanilla for $1.98, an 8-ounce container of Season All seasoned salt for $1.68 and a 2-ounce jar of cinnamon for $2.58.
Other products included McCormick's red food color, brown gravy mix, lemon pepper, garlic powder, taco seasoning, fajitas marinade and Bac'n Pieces. Also, the ad featured a 55-cents-off coupons for several products.