ALNA, Maine -- Locally produced Center Store items are in the spotlight at Shaw's Supermarkets and Hannaford Bros., both of which are expanding their number of Made-in-Maine specialty departments.
The departments, which range in size from 4 to 40 feet, are in 19 Shaw's stores and 22 Hannaford units in Maine, according to Glenn Leisching, president of Cooperative Marketing here, which initiated the project. Five IGA stores also have the sections.
Cooperative Marketing hopes to get greater supermarket representation, possibly even outside Maine in the greater New England area, Leisching said.
The goal of the project is to get wider distribution of products from smaller manufacturers. To help do so, the departments, which are signed with a banner hanging from the ceiling, feature shelf signs that include biographies of the manufacturers.
The department is designed to educate consumers about the manufacturing process and to make shopping for local products easier, Leisching said.
Having the products available at supermarkets is a plus for tourists, said Leisching.
"A lot of people who visit Maine want to take home a souvenir. Many times, they don't know where a specialty store is, but they most certainly will know where a supermarket is," Leisching said.
Retails range from 99 cents to $7. The most popular selections are honey, an organic cereal mix, dried sea vegetables and mustard. Other items include bean mixes, blueberry chutney, canned vegetables, flavored chocolate sauces, fruit jams and jellies, hot sauces, Mexican seasonings, mushrooms, salsa, sauerkraut, scones, soup mixes and steak sauces.
Though the program is now in its second year, East Bridgewater, Mass.-based Shaw's just recently started participating. One of the reasons it opted to do so was its strong ties to Maine, according to spokesman Bernie Rogan.
"Our company was founded in Maine in 1860 and continued to operate there until the 1960s," Rogan said. "This gives us an opportunity to show our flag." Shaw's also highlights locally produced items in Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
All of Shaw's Made-in-Maine sections, which vary in size from 4 to 8 feet, are located in the retailer's ethnic aisles.