MILFORD, Ohio -- bigg's here has entered the fresh chilled meals arena for the first time, with a large menu of items in heat-sealed packages bearing the bigg's name.
Seven of the operator's 10 hypermarkets have the meals program, which is centered on an impressive display of the never-frozen entrees, sides and desserts featured at the end of a walk-around case.
The meals display is situated across the aisle from the service deli, according to local sources. Approximately 8 feet of three-tiered, refrigerated space in the island display is devoted to the heat-and-serve items. Emphasis is on "comfort foods" with an overhead chalkboard sign calling attention to "bigg's home cookin.' "
The case also shows off a large selection of value-added meats such as kabobs and stuffed chicken breasts.
Officials at bigg's corporate offices declined to provide information about the chilled prepared items, other than to confirm that the products are currently being offered in the seven Cincinnati stores. The officials stressed that the program is in its infancy and may undergo changes.
Local sources said the meals items were introduced last month, and that there are approximately 20 items on the menu.
"The display includes sides like sliced red skin potatoes and green beans almondine," one local observer said, "and entrees such as meat loaf with a brown gravy and chops with apple-raisin stuffing."
Rice and red beans, macaroni and cheese, and a vegetable medley are in the line-up. Three desserts -- apple, cherry and peach cobbler -- are part of the menu, too.
The food is prepared and packed by a regional meat processor that supplies bigg's with value-added meats. The products, developed with extensive input from bigg's, are delivered to the chain's stores three times a week.
bigg's heralded the launch with spot ads on local radio and full-page adds in the Sunday Cincinnati Enquirer. The stores are also using sampling on weekends, to introduce customers to the fare.
The packaging displays the bigg's name in 2-inch-tall letters. The shape of the microwavable package is square with a large, rounded cut-out that shows off the contents through a plastic film window. The lettering on the paperboard top is teal green on a white background.
The look of the heat-sealed packaging is reminiscent of that used by Ukrop's Super Markets, Richmond, Va., for its fresh prepared meals components. Indeed, the packaging for both retailers is designed and supplied by West Vaco, New York, at its Richmond, Va., packaging division.
bigg's stores are in excess of 140,000 square feet and all have large perishables departments. The stores offer a large variety of fresh produce, for example, and have offered an extensive selection of value-added meats for the past two years, local sources said.
In addition to seven stores in Cincinnati, bigg's operates one market in Louisville, Ky.; one in Indiana; and one in Denver. Major supermarket competition in Cincinnati comes from Kroger Co., which has its home base there.