COMMERCE, Calif. — Unified Grocers has unveiled a signature private-label line of healthy deli meats and cheeses supported by a hefty marketing program.
Featuring products developed to Unified Grocers' specifications by Hansel & Gretel, Glendale, N.Y., the line will be available exclusively to its member retailers, which operate more than 2,000 stores on the West Coast.
“This line, Kitchen Chef Healthy Deli, is an exclusive, available only from us to our retailer members, and it's the first of its kind for independent retailers on the West Coast,” said Dan Murphy, Unified Grocers' senior vice president, sales and marketing and retail support services. “We're unique with this. I haven't seen anybody out here promoting anything like this.”
The products are low-sodium, low-fat and contain no cholesterol or MSG.
The company spent more than a year working hand in hand with Hansel & Gretel to develop the signature line.
The line, which includes 10 deli meats, eight natural cheeses and five all-natural organic meats, was introduced at Unified Grocers' annual food expo in June in Long Beach, Calif.
“It was very important that we have it ready by then, because our members from Seattle down to California and some of the Hawaiian Islands attend the expo,” Murphy told SN. “It was a good opportunity to show it to the most people at the same time.”
Unified Grocers' retailer members were very receptive, commenting on the flavor quality of the deli meats, he said.
While it's early yet for retailers to have taken on the line, follow-up meetings are being held with a number of Unified Grocers' member retailers right now, Murphy said.
“Our original target was to get 200 customers on board in the first 60 days, and it looks like we'll be right on it,” said Wayne Williamson, Hansel & Gretel's vice president of sales and marketing.
Williamson pointed out that the trademark Heart Wise, just registered by Hansel & Gretel, can be used in marketing the Kitchen Chef Healthy Deli meats.
Hansel & Gretel makes 25 items that meet or exceed the American Heart Association's criteria for inclusion in a heart-healthy diet.
Unified Grocers' objective in partnering with Hansel & Gretel to develop the line was to give its member retailers a focal point for their delis, Murphy explained.
“We wanted to offer them great quality at a value, and we're keying in on the health and wellness needs of the consumer,” he said. “Flavor is very important, and this is a high-quality product that eats as well as Boar's Head or any of the other premium lines out there.”
The new product also gives retailer's deli associates an opportunity to talk to their customers about their health and wellness needs. In that respect, ongoing sampling is a major part of the marketing program, Murphy said.
“When a customer comes up to the deli to order traditional deli meats, the associate can ask them if they're aware of the new Kitchen Chef Healthy Deli line,” he said. “Then, they can ask them if they'd like to try the turkey, ham or whatever they want to try. Giving them a brochure that explains the line, listing its attributes, is part of it, too.”
Unified Grocers' marketing support for its members includes an extensive training program for managers and associates. Marketing and merchandising is bolstered by point-of-sale materials that the two companies developed together. Explanatory brochures, signs, banners, product cards, window signs and menu boards, as well as advertising support, are part of the effort.
And this is just the beginning, Murphy said.
“We're working on more of the natural organic meats, such as pork loin with rosemary; a special, healthy deli bread; and a special recipe for our chicken program.”