Innovative packaging ups anchovy sales 15%


Chris Dove, contributing editor, reporting from Malaga, Spain

Published on
February 28, 2012

Spanish supermarket chain Mercadona attributes a 15 percent sales growth during the first two months of 2012 to its innovative anchovy plastic triple packs, taking volumes to 11 million units.

Having spent two years researching options for greater customer and supplier convenience, the retailer changed the industry’s traditional anchovy packaging from sheet tin base and cardboard outer to permeable plastic tri-pack.

This overhaul is seen as a “sea change” by cannery Francisco Gil Comes based in Castellón, working in collaboration with main customer Mercadona for two years with “a constant need for improvement” and desire to reduce costs “without compromising quality,” ensuring the product remains intact and in sanitary conditions.

Comes’ head of procurement and logistics, Roberto Forner, said given “the exorbitant increase in steel prices, we saw the possibility to do this and made the first tests, the public reacted well and gradually we made the change.”

As one of 800 “specific measures that translate into savings,” Mercadona is enjoying significant cost reductions of at least EUR 0.22 (USD 0.30) per pack, equivalent to EUR 3 million (USD 4.04 million) in annual savings.

The offer is presented under Mercadona’s Hacendado brand in a triple pack of linked plastic containers, precut for easy separation and heat sealed with a plastic film top. Forner described the limitations of larger plastic containers that had no protective barrier to oxygen because they were too thick. “Now, with these very small containers, we had to use other types of materials which give protection. They carry an intermediate, multilayered material called EVOH — a plastic whose characteristics provide a new permeability.”

In terms of product stability, Forner explained the similarities: “For sheet tin cans we put an expiry date of one year and on these plastic packs we put six months, however, our tests show the stability and duration are exactly the same.”

As a container with a conical shape, Forner highlights the plastic packaging’s other advantages including environmental savings, distribution and product stacking: “While before we were transporting 500,000 empty containers in a truck, now we’re transporting 3 million. A tin can is more expensive than a plastic three pack and this reduces the cost of transferring directly to the client and reduces CO2 emissions, with fewer trucks we carry a greater number of containers. Market acceptance was excellent and sales increased 50 percent.”

Displayed in store chiller cabinets within the Charcuterie section, the packaging highlights the new convenience, security benefits and easy division into three, each weighing 40 grams net. Semi-conserved anchovies in olive oil retail at EUR 2.35 (USD 3.16) per tri-pack.

Comes has canning plants in Peniscola (Castellón) for sardinillas production (small sardines); in Larache (Morocco) for anchovy packaging; and in Mar del Plata (Argentina) for salted anchovy production.

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