Shenandoah Valley Organic (SVO) is an organic chicken company located in Harrisonburg, Va. Its Farmer Focus brand is committed to environmental stewardship and providing a healthy source of nutrition through the most humane, clean and safe processes possible. And, its commitment ranges from high ethical standards of raising chickens to environmentally conscious packaging.
In the early days of their business, SVO was stocked at small, local groceries. As their reputation for quality, premium products grew, they expanded their distribution to large, national big box retailers. While moving to larger retailers meant new opportunities, it also meant new challenges in a rapidly growing organic chicken market.
Standing out in the crowded, competitive organic chicken market and addressing the needs of organic shoppers became a top priority for SVO.
Moving into big box retail also meant a whole new set of retailer standards to address, including ways to extend product shelf life, prevent leaks and eliminate storage complications.
SVO already had the product quality needed to compete in big box, but knew that changing their packaging to communicate both quality and recyclability could help them stand out from the crowd.
SVO and Sealed Air Food Care, Charlotte, N.C., previously collaborated on packaging solutions.
Impressed with Sealed Air’s consultative approach to problem solving, SVO knew that Sealed Air was the right partner to help design and implement the best packaging solution for their entry into big box retail. With a keen understanding of SVO’s needs, taking into account their budgets and market position, Sealed Air recommended Cryovac Darfresh tray/skin vacuum packaging for SVO. The solution provided SVO with a number of benefits, including:
- Extended shelf life of case-ready fresh poultry.
- Smaller trays that, unlike foam trays, are recyclable.
- Easy-open, leak-proof packages that are freezer ready.
- Banded label product that can be labeled as needed, particularly important for private label products.
The response from retailers large and small has been overwhelmingly positive.
“People we showed it to have responded ‘That’s exactly what I’m looking for,’” says Jack Coleman, vice president of sales and marketing for SVO.
The smaller trays give retailers a more consistent product with longer shelf life and reduced shrink. Vertical display capabilities allow retailers to stock more in a case and reduce restocking frequency. And, retailer adoption has set a new pace record for SVO.
“We’ve never had a product that was met with such overwhelming acceptance,” adds Coleman.
The real proof of success is in the almost fourfold increase in retail sales. Not only do shoppers get an unobstructed 360-degree view of the chicken product, but also the reduction in packaging and elimination of the soaker pad means less overall waste and better recyclability. SVO is gaining net new customers as well as increasing repeat shoppers.
“We knew it was a success waiting to happen,” adds Jefferson Heatwole, executive vice of sales and marketing for SVO. “We were pleased with the Cryovac team’s response to our inventory issues and their assistance in getting trays and film in, so we could keep up with demand.”
In evaluating the success of the packaging change, SVO found that their business gains more than offset the cost of the new equipment. As they look at expanding their product offering, SVO is continuing to partner with Sealed Air to get the best packaging solutions in place from the start.
“We’ve been impressed with how the SVO people on the line are dedicated to delivering a quality product,” says Sean Brady, senior marketing manager at Sealed Air Food Care.