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    Schnucks Debuts 'Home-cooked' Meal Solutions Center

    ST. LOUIS - In a bid to make it considerably easier for customers to enjoy authentic home-cooked meals at home, Schnuck Markets, Inc. here is rolling out two new culinary make-and-take meal prep concepts -- "Meal Creations" and "Schnucks Cooks" -- that offer a dash of food and cooking instruction, along with a large measure of convenience.

    ST. LOUIS - In a bid to make it considerably easier for customers to enjoy authentic home-cooked meals at home, Schnuck Markets, Inc. here is rolling out two new culinary make-and-take meal prep concepts -- "Meal Creations" and "Schnucks Cooks" -- that offer a dash of food and cooking instruction, along with a large measure of convenience.

    Although the two concepts have food education and shopping convenience in common, they seek to meet two very different consumer needs, according to the grocer.

    "Meal Creations is an interactive cooking event that you and your friends can participate in together, while Schnucks Cooks offers informal cooking demonstrations and one-on-one coaching," said Kathy Gottsacker, Schnucks director of food education.

    Lori Willis, Schnucks spokeswoman told Progressive Grocer that many of the chain's customers still enjoy cooking from scratch. She added that while Schnucks is not the first in the industry to migrate toward a make-and-take meal facility, "we're the first grocer in our market to establish one of these centers."

    The dual rollout "makes a big statement, and put us in an ideal position to better serve customers now, and in the future," said Willis. "We are always working to create a better experience for our customers; it's an ongoing practice among our management teams right down to our store associates; it's what sets us apart."

    The meal center's seamless compatibility with Schnucks' existing supermarket offerings is a logical next step in the regional retailer's mission to "help make it easy for families to have a home cooked meal," Willis said. "As a family-owned company, we recognize the importance of our role in making families' lives easier -- this takes us in a whole new exciting direction in terms of what that means for our customers."

    Gottsacker said targeted consumer research indicated that both meal services will help cooks of all skill levels whip up meals within the routine time constraints of today's typical consumers.

    Adjacent to Schnucks' Dardenne store at 3029 Hwy. K, in Dardenne Prairie, Mo., the new stand-alone Meal Creations is an interactive meal-planning center that eliminates the steps of shopping, chopping, and cleaning up. Recipes showcased in the center are created and tested by the Schnucks food education team, and all the needed ingredients are already prepped and available at food stations.

    Willis said the meal recipes vary in number of ingredients, "from the very simple to the more elaborate." To encourage trial of the new culinary concept, Schnucks is offering a special introductory entr•e price of $3 per serving.

    The meal center is surrounded by an "entire wall of windows, where customers checking out [at the front end] can look in and see everybody cooking and having fun," added Willis. The ambiance of the Meal Creations center "looks like a home kitchen, where customers can rotate through stations as quickly or as leisurely as they like," and "prepare a month's worth of meals in a couple hours," she said.

    Sue Byrne, Schnucks' Meal Creations project manager, confirmed that, "In one session, you can prepare up to 12 family-sized entrees -- six servings -- in under two hours," which helps consumers save time and money, since the meals cost less than average take-out fare. Once customers assemble their entrees, the Meal Creations staff will help customers package their creations and cooking instructions.

    Walk-ins will be taken if space allows, but to ensure session availability, customers are advised to make a reservation online, the Schnucks execs said.

    The second component of Schnucks' culinary program, Schnucks Cooks, is a store-within-a-store, portable culinary demonstration station. The first one is inside the Twin Oaks, Mo. store at 1393 Big Bend.

    "Schnucks Cooks focuses on instruction using experienced cooking coaches and customized recipes to offer cooking demonstrations and the convenience of picking up ingredients right there," Byrne explained.

    During live demonstrations held at varying intervals throughout the day, coaches will create dishes and serve samples for customers, who will leave with a better understanding of various cooking methods, along with complimentary four-color recipe cards. The recipe cards can be organized inside a "Schnucks Cooks" binder, sold for $9.99.

    The cooking station also features adjacent kiosks holding all of the component meal ingredients, thus eliminating the need for shoppers to shop the store in search of them.

    Noted Gottsacker: "It's like taking a crash course in meal preparation. You can literally walk up to a Schnucks Cooks station with no idea of the answer to the question 'What's for dinner?' and leave with the makings of a new recipe for your family."

    A second Schnucks Cooks site will open soon in the newly remodeled Woods Mill Schnucks at 1060 Woods Mill Plaza in Town and Country, Mo. after Thanksgiving. The third installation will follow shortly thereafter at the Kirkwood, Mo. Schnucks store at 10233 Manchester Road. Additional sites for both concepts will be opened in 2008 with expansion to out-state Schnucks stores to follow.

    Schnuck Markets, Inc. operates 102 stores (including five Logli stores) and 99 pharmacies in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Tennessee and Mississippi.

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