Partnering for packaging
Sealed Air Food Care helped Shenandoah Valley Organic differentiate their premium organic chicken products.
November 12, 2018
Shenandoah Valley Organic (SVO), founded in 2013, is a family-run organic chicken company located in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The farmer-focused brand is committed to environmental stewardship and providing a healthy source of nutrition through the most humane, clean and safe processes possible. Their commitment is evident from their high ethical standards of raising chickens to their environmentally conscious packaging that is easy to use and recycle.
According to Sean Brady, Senior Marketing Manager at Sealed Air Food Care, “From farm to case to home, every member of the SVO team is dedicated to delivering products with unbeatable quality. This clear focus is behind their rapid growth and is the reason they stand above the competition in the competitive organic market.”
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, fiercely competitive organic chicken market:
- Total U.S. organic product sales have averaged double-digit growth over the last five years.
- There are more than 26,400 certified organic operations nationwide.
- Organic chicken is the most widely available organic meat; The relatively short production cycle, low price premium and integrated production give it an edge over pork and beef.
- The number of certified organic broilers produced in 2016 totaled more than 19 million.
- U.S. producers sold $750 million of organic chickens in 2016.
Standing out in the crowded, competitive organic chicken market and addressing the needs of discerning organic shoppers became a top priority for SVO. Not only are organic shoppers concerned about the quality of their food, but 24% of American consumers say that reduced environmental impact is a reason they purchase organic or natural products.
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 optimize merchandising. Not only do consumers think more highly of stores (81%) and brands (78%) that help them reduce food waste, but more than half (57%) of consumers also appreciate stores that promote their use of packaging to extend shelf life and product quality.
While SVO already had the product quality they needed to compete in big box, they also 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 (Sealed Air) had 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 them design and implement the best packaging solution for their entry into big box retail. With a keen understanding of SVO’s needs, budgets and market position, Sealed Air recommended Cryovac® Darfresh® tray/skin vacuum packaging. The solution provided SVO with a number of important benefits:
- 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, creating greater operational efficiency when producing both private and brand 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’” said Jack Coleman, SVO’s VP of Sales and Marketing. 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. In fact, retailer adoption has set a new pace record for SVO. “We’ve never had a product that was met with such overwhelming acceptance,” noted Coleman.
The real proof of success is in the almost fourfold increase in retail sales. SVO’s new packaging is delivering the quality perception that organic shoppers look for when choosing their products. Not only do shoppers get an unobstructed 360° view of the chicken product, but 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.
Even though, according to Jefferson Heatwole, SVO’s Executive Vice of Sales and Marketing. “We knew it was a success waiting to happen,” SVO didn’t anticipate the rapid ramp up in sales and struggled to keep up. Sealed Air sprang into action, helping SVO restructure their inventory plans and delivering trays and film faster. Heatwole said, “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.