ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Wegmans here is one of several large supermarket operators hosting a lenten seafood promotion throughout the month of March in conjunction with Reynolds Metals Company, Richmond, Va., and the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, Juneau, Alaska.
Other retailers participating this year include Price Chopper, Schenectady, N.Y.; Big Y, Springfield, Mass.; and selected units of Cincinnati-based Kroger.
"What we're really trying to do is bring consumers back into the grocery store and teach them how to cook again," said Debbie Spade, senior business manager for Reynolds. "Consumers today have gotten so out of cooking that we need to find ways to teach them again. Wegmans really knows how to do that. They like to give their customers new ideas."
According to sales figures from ASMI, their efforts to re-expose consumers to the idea of cooking in a kitchen have been very successful in past years. Melissa DiSalle, ASMI's regional marketing representative for the Midwest and Northeast, said stores which participated in the lenten program last year saw a 127% increase in sales of Alaskan seafood over 1998 figures.
The Wegmans promotion, scheduled for all units, draws upon the increase in seafood consumption during the lenten season and aims at providing consumers with options they can create themselves quickly and easily.
Spade said Wegmans is trying to reduce its customers' fears of preparing seafood by presenting them with options that are fast, safe and easy.
"The Reynolds packet cooking technique is a quick and easy solution to the consumers' hectic lifestyles," she said. "It not only reduces time spent in the kitchen, but it reduces the risk associated with cooking seafood."
Wegmans' employees demonstrate the Reynolds packet cooking technique at stations set up in the seafood department. While the demos were only scheduled to take place for two weeks, beginning March 10, the actual seafood promotion was scheduled to last throughout the month. For the in-store demos, Wegmans' employees were preparing Tuscan Halibut the first week and Alaskan Cod Portobello the second.
Spade said the demos are usually conducted between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., with the intention of appealing to the lunch and dinner crowd.
In addition to counter cards advertising the promotion, brochure packets are available for consumers in the department as well. The consumer packets include the recipes for the two seafood dishes being prepared during the in-store demos, as well as recipes for Alaskan Seafood with Orzo, Honey Dijon Alaskan Salmon, Alaskan Seafood with Couscous and Alaskan Salmon Fajitas. Also included is a coupon good for $2 off when the customer purchases both a Reynolds product and an Alaskan seafood product.
The promotion is getting centerfold attention in Wegmans circular. The center-page ad is supplying information about the lenten program and showing the packet cooking technique, said Spade.
Seafood department employees donned specially designed T-shirts for the month-long promotion. The long-sleeved purple shirts feature a picture of a salmon dish plated with asparagus and read "Quick & Easy Alaska Seafood Dinners" with the ASMI logo above and "Reynolds Making Good Food Better" below.
"Consumers' hectic lifestyles today don't leave them time for making a nice home cooked meal for their family at the end of the day," said Spade. "But a lot of them still want that warm, fuzzy feeling of having prepared a good meal from scratch."