Founded in 1883 in Cincinnati, OH, Kroger is known as an innovator and pioneer in the food retail industry. It’s also one of the world’s largest grocery retailers, with over 2,700 stores and fiscal 2015 sales of $110 billion. Kroger’s family of stores spans 35 states nationwide, with formats including grocery, multi-department, discount, convenience and jewelry stores. Although operating under nearly two-dozen banners, each store shares the same belief in building strong local ties and brand loyalty with its customers.
Taking 4 Decades of Partnership to the Next Level
After nearly 4 decades of partnering with Kroger, time and again Sealed Air has proven its ability to deliver the highest standards in both quality and service to Kroger and its customers with various total packaging solutions throughout the grocer’s meat and deli departments.
In December 2014, Sealed Air secured the opportunity to roll out their innovative solutions behind Kroger deli counters. Several years prior, Kroger’s Private Selection® premium deli meat offerings was converted to the Cryovac® Grip & Tear® packaging solution. These vacuum-packaged bags have an easy-open feature that completely eliminate the need for cutting tools, produce a straight, consistent tear and help maintain optimal freshness and appealing optics with its skin-tight shrink packaging.
Kroger was at the forefront of requesting easy-open packaging and was one of the early adapters of this innovative packaging solution. After evaluating the industries’ options for easy-open, barrier bag formats, Kroger decided Cryovac Grip & Tear packaging solutions were superior—not only for worker safety, but for brand building and operational efficiency as well. As a result, Kroger made Sealed Air their preferred packaging supplier for this initiative.
Kroger recognized the worker and food safety benefits of Cryovac packaging solutions, eliminating the need for knives and other sharp tools and increasing productivity. Additionally, this easy-open packaging allow for customized branding. Kroger positions their private label as a premium brand and Sealed Air took this opportunity to help Kroger reposition their artwork design by placing it in a more prominent location where it could easily be seen. This helped Kroger elevate its brand presence with customers, regardless of where the product was placed in the deli case. This initiative helped position both Kroger and Sealed Air as trailblazers—implementing better safety procedures behind the counter by going knife-free. The size and scope of the project, combined with Kroger’s influence in the industry, provided opportunities to expand Cryovac packaging solutions within Kroger and beyond.
Kroger challenged Sealed Air to migrate its easy-open solutions into their Private Selection brands of cheese behind the full-service deli counters within a 12-month timeframe. As part of this conversion, 10 stock keeping units from four different suppliers were migrated to Grip & Tear packaging, totaling nearly 2 million bags in yearly volume.
To assist in this undertaking, Sealed Air was asked to work directly with Kroger’s suppliers, which presented a challenge—facilitating effective communication between all parties involved to accommodate for the many roles, moving parts and critical intersection ahead. Focused alignment was required to accommodate for this undertaking. Brad Bankson from Kroger Corporate Brands states, “Each one of my suppliers is as unique as the cheese they sell. Their packaging lines are often one-of-a-kind and it takes a team of experts to recognize those differences and deliver consistent results. With the manufacturer and end user in mind, the Sealed Air team performed quickly and decisively to hit our company’s timelines.”
In order to build successful relationships with the suppliers, Sealed Air recognized the need for customized solutions. In most cases, suppliers had the appropriate infrastructure in place, making it a smooth transition to Cryovac products.
It was essential that Sealed Air work closely with Kroger to find the solution that best worked for them. “During our discovery process at our Private Selection Cheese manufacturers Sealed Air found it was necessary to be at ground zero with our suppliers as no two machines package alike,” Bankson states.
Early in the process, Sealed Air developed a project scorecard, in order to identify and track potential challenges and keep Kroger informed throughout the process.
The highly coordinated Sealed Air team consisted of more than half a dozen multifunctional areas such as marketing, sales, graphics to portfolio, research and development and retail task force resources—providing boots on the ground and end-to-end expertise that goes far beyond simply providing products.
For Kroger, it was essential to partner with a company that provided more than just a product solution, but expert support and knowledge in a number of areas.
Initial feedback from suppliers has been very positive. One customer who migrated over from a competitor’s bags with a number of quality issues noted high satisfaction with the Cryovac packaging solution. Another customer, Ronald Weil from Arena Cheese, Inc. states, “We have had no problems on our packaging lines switching from the plain bag to the Sealed Air Grip & Tear bag for Kroger and Private Selection brand of bulk cheeses. Sealed Air has helped us through the design and now manufacturing phase for several of the new cheeses to be introduced this year under Kroger’s premier Private Selection brand. This new bag program enhances both companies presence in the specialty bulk cheese program.”
As a result, the partnership approach taken toward this project not only demonstrated the superiority of Cryovac packaging solutions in the deli segment, but it gave the nation’s largest full-service grocery retailer exposure to the full breadth of Sealed Air capabilities.
To learn more about Sealed Air Corporate, visit SealedAir.com.