Merchandising Features / Trend Features
Retailer Profiles

A Local Connection

November 30, 2012

Fresh and tasty is the focus at Harris

Teeter Super Markets Inc.

Leveraging growing shopper interest in healthy foods that are developed in close proximity to stores, the Matthews, N.C.-based chain of more than 200 outlets in North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina, Maryland, Tennessee, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida and Georgia, is seeking to standout in a crowded supermarket sector by emphasizing the geography and offerings of its suppliers and the expertise of store associates.

That strategy is especially evident in the produce section.

The 52-year-old company, which was formed by the merger of Harris Super Markets and Teeter’s Food Marts, states that it carries more than 600 fresh produce selections and pledges to have the “widest variety of fruits and vegetables the world has to offer.”

All produce, it notes, is carefully selected to meet high standards, with the fruit “consistently sweet, ripe and ready-to-eat.”

Indeed, Harris Teeter refers to its produce department as the “Farmers Market,” and reports that it is staffed with “Green Thumb Experts” who are carefully trained and certified to help shoppers select the best produce.

Such experts, the company states, are on hand to answer questions about an item’s nutritional content; help customers learn how to store items properly at home; explain the differences in varieties of fruits and vegetables; and suggest ways that customers can prepare the items.

Produce section placards also encourage shoppers to speak with the “Green Thumb Experts.”

To illustrate product knowledge, signs with a “Harris Teeter Green Thumb Expert Tip” logo also are situated throughout the produce section.

Among the tips are, “Never refrigerate tomatoes. Cold temperature makes them mushy and lessons their flavors. Select tomatoes that are firm with a deep red color.”

Another tip on picking melons states, “Choose melons that are heavy for their size and are free from cracks. Most melons smell fragrant when ripe and should give slightly to pressure on the blossom end.”

Food quality, meanwhile, is accentuated with signs entitled “Meet the Farmer” that feature photos of growers and descriptions of their operations.

One of about a dozen such placards at a

Washington, D.C., Harris Teeter,  promotes Dinuba,

Calif.-based Family Tree Farms.

 It states that Family Tree Farms is located in the Central San Joaquin Valley and produces peaches, nectarines, pluots, and plums.

The sign adds that, “Because they insist on

farming for flavor, Family Tree Farms waits just a little bit longer than most to harvest their fruit. Then the fruit is hand-picked and carefully packed to ensure that each piece of fruit is its sweetest, juiciest best when it reaches Harris Teeter.”

Other signs with a “From Your Regional Neighbor” headline spotlight growers that are located in nearby states.

For Lincolnton, N.C.-based blackberry producer Owls Den Farm, signage states that “Owls Den is owned by Sunny Ridge Farm and operated by Josh Beam. A local from Cleveland County, Josh grew up on his family’s farm developing a deep appreciation for agriculture.”

W. Frank Dell III, president and chief executive officer of Dellmart & Co., a Stamford, Conn.-based retail consultancy, says focusing on suppliers and food quality is consistent with Harris Teeter’s overall strategy of targeting middle- to higher-end shoppers.

 “Harris Teeter is trying to build the trust

factor for the consumers who are seeking an enjoyable shopping experience and are most interested in product quality and availability,” he states. “They are not looking to create a price image.”  

That includes creating a freshness aura, which is further emphasized at the Washington, D.C.,

Harris Teeter by the marketing of bags of apples on produce department tables with signage that proclaims, “Fresh off the Farm,” and that the apples are locally grown at Crown Orchards in Batesville, Va.

The sign notes that locally grown is defined as “fresh produce grown right in your own state,” while regionally grown is described as “six or fewer hours from the farm to your Harris Teeter.”

Harris Teeter’s spotlight on its food quality and suppliers extends to the meat department.

A sign in a refrigerated case, for instance, notes that Laurel, Miss.-based Sanderson Farms Inc. is the producer of Harris Teeter-branded fresh chicken.

It states that Sanderson Farms was incorporated in 1955 and “built on a foundation of honesty, integrity and family values. They are ranked among the top-4 poultry producers in the country; there are no additives, artificial ingredients or preservatives in their fresh chicken.”

Other Harris Teeter private-label proteins also are highlighted in the meat department.

A sign over the self-serve case announces the retailer’s new store-branded ready-to-cook “Chef Prepared Dinners at Home” selections.

Options listed under a “Ready to Steam, Ready in Minutes in the Microwave” heading are Sun Dried Tomato Pesto & Mozzarella Chicken Breast, and Chicken Breast Stuffed with Basil Pesto.

Under the “Ready to Cook, Bakes in Under Thirty Minutes” heading are Pork Loin Chop with Apple Apricot & Sage Stuffing, Chicken Cordon Bleu, Chicken Breast with Bacon & Blue Cheese, and Chicken Breast with Ricotta & Spinach Wrapped in Prosciutto.

“Ready to Roast, Bakes in Under an Hour” offerings are Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf, Lemon Thyme Turkey Breast, and Pork Tenderloin with Apricot, Cranberry & Almond Stuffing.

Such meals are among the perishables options that are being used to lure convenience-oriented shoppers.

Other vehicles include a “meal deal” in the deli where signs and literature publicize the “Chef Prepared Custom Meals,” in which shoppers, for $5, can chose one entrée and two side dishes from the full-service prepared foods case.

Among the entrées are Grilled Chicken Breast, Chicken Piccata with a Lemon & Herb Goat Cheese, Flank Steak, three types of Drumsticks: Zesty BBQ, Honey Mustard and S & Z Asian, Chicken Breast in Bacon, Pork Shoulder, Grilled Pork Chops with Onions, Pepper and Gouda, and Pumpkin Spice Stuffed Turkey Breast.

Side dishes include Green Beans, Fruit Salad, Potato Salad, Chick Pea Salad, Asparagus with Raspberries, Yellow Lentils with Grilled Eggplant and Tomatoes, Kale with Sweet Potatoes, and Macaroni & Cheese.

A deli associate says some entrée selections change monthly while side dishes often rotate daily.

Prepared value-added offerings also are prominent in the full-service meat case.

They include three types of burgers that are priced at $4.99 a pound: Jalapeno Monterey Jack, Mushroom Swiss, and Sweet Onion Cheddar.

Also available are Beef Sirloin Kabobs with Vegetables ($7.99 each), Spinach Feta Stuffed Boneless Chicken Breast, and Broccoli Cheddar Stuffed Boneless Chicken Breast (each for $7.99), and Jamaican Jerk Chicken Kabobs with Vegetables for $6.99 a pound.

In addition, the case contains Natural 90-Percent Lean Angus Ground Beef Patties for $4.99 a pound, as well as Fresh Store-Made Hot Italian Sausage and Smoked Andouille Sausage, for $4.49 and $4.99 a pound, respectively.

Hot prepared foods in the Washington, D.C., Harris Teeter are available in the deli at a pizza station and self-service bars.

Buffet  lunch and dinner selections, which are priced at $7.99 a pound, include Fried Okra, Green Beans, Meatball Marinara, Corn with Red Peppers, Sausage & Peppers, California Mixed Vegetables, Spanish Rice, Buffalo Chicken Wings, Teriyaki Chicken Wings, Seasoned Potato Wedges, Home Fries, Mashed Potatoes, Southern Fried Chicken, Homemade Meat Loaf, Chicken Strips, and Macaroni & Cheese.

A Hot Asian Bar features Mandarin Orange Chicken, Fried Rice, California Veggie Delight, Teriyaki Chicken, Vegetable Egg Rolls, Mushroom Garlic Beef, Black Pepper Celery, Thai Curry Chicken, California Tofu Delight, and Vegetable Dumplings.

With its strong emphasis on fresh and prepared foods, Harris Teeter is “not trying to be all things to all people,” and as a result has been “ahead of its time” with market segmentation, Dell says.

“They have never merchandised cheap junk; they wanted better quality foods,” he states. “Their customers are loyal, such as those who shop at Wegmans and Whole Foods. If you keep current with the times, your customer base will stay with you.”

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Recent Articles by Rich Mitchell - Perishables Buyer

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