RICHMOND, Va. -- Ukrop's Super Markets here and packaging supplier, Westvaco Corp., Newark, Del., have received an award for the design of Ukrop's prepared foods, cook-in packaging. The "excellence" award was bestowed by the Washington-based Paperboard Packaging Council, at a recent ceremony that honored national winners in the Council's 1995 paperboard packaging competition. There were more than 350 entries in this year's competition, the most in seven years, said John A. McIntyre, president of the trade association.
The Ukrop's packaging was chosen, the judges said, for its superiority on two levels -- the graphic design and the qualities of the packaging that ensure a tight seal with minimum effort.
On the latter point, Ukrop's estimates it has made sealing time three times faster with the new packaging.
"The packaging, in addition to its other inherent benefits, has saved us labor. You can seal three of these in the time it took to seal one of the packages we had used previously," said Kevin Hade, director of manufacturing, for 23-unit Ukrop's.
The chain's prepared foods, made at a central kitchen, are delivered in bulk to Ukrop's units and then portioned into individual containers at store level. What makes the new packaging so efficient is that it is made of paperboard with a plastic film incorporated in it. That's true of both the bottom and the lid of the packaging. When it's placed in a heat sealer at the store, the film on top and bottom adhere to each other easily, creating a seal, Hade said.
"Previously, we had used a package that had a paperboard bottom and a dome top. Before placing the dome on the container, we had to pull film over the container and then attempt to seal the film to the paperboard bottom. It's not easy to attach film to paperboard because their qualities are different. It's like trying to bond dogs and cats," Hade said.
"Sometimes it didn't seal well and there would be leakage," he added. In addition to making sealing more efficient and reliable, the packaging also enables staffers to portion product into the containers faster because the package sizes are designed to accommodate standard portions, Hade said.
"We were Westvaco's first customer for these packages, so we had a lot of input on sizes and other factors," he said. Ukrop's has been using the new packaging since last fall.
The new package, which is dual-ovenable, has a flat, paperboard-and-film top with a large window to provide a view of the food contained in it.
Graphics on the container tops play out a motif that's used in Ukrop's stores. The colors are hunter green and maroon on a white background, and small checks at the corners of the lids are designed to bring the word, "kitchen," to mind, a Westvaco spokesman said. The graphic design of the packaging was born of a collaboration that involved Jackie Legg, Ukrop's vice president of creative merchandising; representatives of Riddick Corporate Marketing
here; and Westvaco's liquid packaging division also here.
Ukrop's uses four sizes of the Westvaco containers which constitute the packaging manufacturer's TrayFresh line.
Westvaco offers TrayFresh containers in three ways: stock tray and stock lid, stock tray and custom lid like Ukrop's is using, and custom tray and custom lid.
"At the high volume we buy these containers, there's not much difference in price and in a good stock container, and yet we have the custom graphics with our name," Hade said.
He estimates the 23-unit chain sells 10,000 units of reheatable prepared foods a day. In its newest store, Ukrop's has a 24-foot service counter, a 24-foot self-service counter and an 8-foot shop-around display, all dedicated to prepared foods. There are approximately 50 different items offered. Some examples are: a 12-ounce serving of macaroni with triple cheese, $2.49; and a 12-ounce serving of lasagna, $2.79. The amount of space devoted to the products in each store differs according to the size of the store and the area, Hade said. In all units, 75% to 80% of the prepared foods are sold self-service, he added.