WAYNE, N.J. -- Grand Union Co. here has expanded its selection of value-added seafood items prepared in-store, and is in the process of rolling the program out to all its stores with service seafood departments, according to Kevin Cronin, vice president of meat and seafood. The new items include stuffed clams, stuffed flounder, fish cakes, crab cakes, stuffed filet, seafood marinara and shrimp scampi. Grand Union's recipe selection will encompass about 30 items, including different flavors of certain items such as stuffed flounder, crab cakes and fish cakes, but they will not all be offered simultaneously in any store, Cronin said.
"We have eight to 10 core items. The mix will vary depending on the size and volume of the seafood department. A larger department doing higher volume will have a bigger selection," Cronin said. The seafood department project has been under way about six months and has already been tested in a few stores, he said.
"Our stores have always carried stuffed crabs and clams, but we were getting a lot of that commercially produced and selling it from the seafood department. Now we are working from our own recipes and making the product at each store," he said.
Concern about food safety and maintaining consistency of product quality from store to store has led Grand Union to contract with other companies to create mixes for some of these items, using the chain's own recipes in the formulation. "For example, we formulated a clam stuffing that we liked that is produced for us. The stores receive it, in 5-pound units of stuffing. They can order shells and stuffing to make the finished product available at store level. With the number of stores we have, we like as much as we can to provide the finished product or provide a mix where the employees just add some water and fish, for example, to make a fishcake," Cronin explained.
The expansion coincides with the traditional spike in seafood sales for supermarkets in the Lenten season. Some benefits are expected because, during the Lenten season, people tend to think a little more about seafood, he added.
Cronin said the items are to be displayed both in the service seafood counter and in the self-service case in the seafood department.
In the service counter, the products will be merchandised in bowls or containers similar to those used in the service deli case.
"We have always had a separate section for salads and value-added items in our seafood counters. Now we have expanded that section," he explained. Prepackaged value-added seafood items in the self-service case will carry labels, currently being developed, that refer to Grand Union as the "Best Take-out Restaurant in Town," an umbrella concept that covers the chain's other food-service related endeavors.
The stores are counter-sampling the prepared seafood items almost constantly, by putting a tray of little souffle cups on top of the service counter for customers to pick up and taste, he said. A small card mounted on the tray identifies the sampled item, he said. The expanded variety of store-made value-added seafood items has already been rolled out in some stores and is in the process of being rolled out to the balance, Cronin said.