AT Sirane we've been saying for a while that cooking bags can increase sales of seafood, poultry, and even fruit and veg. The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating... or in this case the selling, and a recent store trial in the US delivered outstanding results. The trial at a store in Idaho showed a 48% increase in seafood sales over a one-week period – with more than 350 added-value packaged meals sold during the week.
That's a lot of extra fish sold... and bosses of the chain of stores in question were quick to realise that if even a proportion of that figure could be translated to seafood counter sales across the chain of stores it had huge potential... so much so that the group MD dropped in on the last day of the trial to see for himself what all the fuss was about.
The store used Sirane self-seal steam-cooking bags – sold in the US under the Ready, Chef, Go! brand by Elkay Plastics – to package fresh seafood with flavoured butters as ready meals.
Meals such as Salmon & Asparagus with Brazilian Garlic Butter, Tilapia and Green Beans with Parmesan & Black Pepper Butter, and Peeled Shrimp with Garlic Scampi Butter were created and offered to shoppers as a ‘grab-and-go’ fresh seafood ready meal. Meals were also offered over-the counter at the seafood counter, where customers could choose combinations.
So what's this got to do with me, I hear you ask? Isn't this a fruit and veg site? Well everything. Look closely at the pictures, and you'll see that the grocery store in question didn't just stick butters in with the fish, they added lemon, peppers and asparagus to make the fish dish become a whole ready meal. So sales of asparagus, peppers and lemons were up too that week... And the bags are perfect for selling vegetables with a difference. Forget the fish. How about sprouts with a balsamic bacon butter? How about new potatoes with a maple bourbon butter? Now we're talking... and think how much more money you'd sell those potatoes for.
Elkay Plastics – Sirane’s exclusive distributor in the US and Canada for self-seal steam cooking bags and oven/BBQ bags – devised the Ready, Chef, Go! programme in order to offer grocery stores a complete package which will allow them to grow sales. It is a very interesting concept, and Elkay has thrown a lot of time and resources behind it... as they know in the US and Canada it will work. Elkay is one of the largest distributors in North America into the food service sector, so it is fair to say they know and understand the North American market. And their Ready, Chef, Go! programme is really gathering momentum.
To make the programme easy, a choice of compound sauce, butter and glaze selections devised by chef Eric Carre – a renowned culinary expert specialising in new product development – has been made available to stores using Ready, Chef, Go! This allows grocery stores to up-sell their fish. Instead of a simple fillet of fish sold at, for example, $2, they suddenly have a seafood ready meal that they can sell for $5. That could work for fruit and vegetables too.
Butters offered are: garlic scampi; lemon dill; blackened cajun; lemon herb with sea salt and black pepper; parmesan black pepper; Asian BBQ (Kalbi); unami, garlic swiss; creamy bacon siracha; balsamic bacon; spicy soy and ginger; maple bourbon; Cuban mojo; Brazilian garlic; Thai coconut curry, and margarita citrus splash. Sauces offered are: smoked paprika tomato basil; teriyaki; mango teriyaki; pineapple teriyaki; Thai yellow curry; Thai red curry; tangerine orange, and scampi sauce.
The programme comes with a host of marketing materials – including badges, counter displays, floor pads, and large store banners – as well as training and support. And before anyone asks, I have genuinely no idea whether Ready, Steady, Cook!, Ainsley Harriott, or indeed the whole concept of turning a green pepper or a red tomato to show your favourite dish are known at all in the US? Ready, Steady, Cook!... Ready, Chef, Go!... maybe Elkay could look at daytime TV gold for further inspiration....
Ready, Chef, Go! is also offering oven/BBQ bags, sold in the US as grilling bags. For more information on the Ready, Chef, Go! programme, visitwww.readychefgobags.com
MARK LINGARD, MARKETING
Later this month some of the Sirane team involved in fruit and vegetable packaging are heading for Kidderminster. It's not often we say that, normally it's Berlin for Fruit Logistica, or Madrid for Fruit Attraction.... but this time it is an agronomy day held by the British Asparagus Growers Association near Kidderminster.
In the UK the asparagus season officially runs from April 23 to Midsummer Day, and due to the short growing season it can command a high price.
It's a complex thing, asparagus. In the UK it is normally green, and only young shoots are eaten, so the growers have to time it right. It is 93% water, low calories, and bursting with goodness. However, in much of western and central Europe asparagus is white, as a result of a blanching technique used while growing. This makes it less bitter and more tender.
Blanching technique is a very complicated way of saying they pile soil on top of the plants so they get no sunlight. No sunlight, no photosynthesis, no photosynthesis, no colour...
There's also a variety of purple asparagus, developed in Italy and named Violetto d'Albenga.
in 2011 the US imported 174,609 tonnes of asparagus, while Peru exported 376,645 tonnes. Big numbers for something with a short growing season. So the trick must be how to make the most of the product during the short season, and how to make the most of exports. Hence my colleagues' trip to Kidderminster....
As a development company, we're always looking at how to develop products for certain markets and more importantly what products those markets need. So in some ways this is a fact-finding trip as much as anything. But we already know we have some products perfect for asparagus, including our steam-cooking bags where it can be sold with a chilli butter, for example, as a value-added product. We also offer pads and asparagus pouches.
I'm sure after trailing around some farms near Kidderminster we'll have lots more ideas on the products we can offer.
MARK LINGARD, MARKETING