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Hot dog lovers, rejoice: Sahlen’s footlongs will be easier to get

Sahlen’s hot dog lovers in Western New York have a reason to be happy: They’ll have an easier time getting footlongs at the grocery store.

But Sahlen’s hot dog lovers in Florida and Canada have a reason to start dancing in the streets: They may soon be able to get Sahlen’s hot dogs there, too.

Sahlen’s said Thursday that it is in talks with the Florida-based grocery chain Publix to expand its distribution there.

If the deals go through, it opens doors to several other markets, as well. In addition to Florida, Publix has stores in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama. Sahlen’s also said that it is in talks with Loblaws to sell its products in Canada.

Canadian distribution could take longer, because of different international packaging requirements, but the market is there, the company said.

Canadians who have tried Sahlen’s hot dogs at Bills, Sabres and Bisons games have become big fans of the brand, the company said.

“These folks are coming down here and they’re enjoying our products, so we’re getting more calls from north of the border,” said Mark S. Battistoni, Sahlen’s vice president of sales and marketing.

Last year, the company began selling its hot dogs at Harris Teeter grocery stores near Charlotte, N.C., and at Fry’s stores in Arizona. The company had begun researching the Charlotte market in 2010 after learning about the region’s large population of transplanted Western New Yorkers. More than 2,000 people relocated from Erie County to Mecklenburg County from 2004 to 2010. It started its market entry with smaller deals through Charlotte Motor Speedway and some regional stores and restaurants, then made the jump to the giant supermarket chain. Consumers in Arizona were introduced to the product at a Ted’s Hot Dogs restaurant in Tempe.

The company fields about 40 emails a week from customers requesting Sahlen’s products in other markets. Those requests are taken into consideration, Battistoni said, but the company is looking to grow steadily and carefully.

“As a company, growth is a wonderful thing. But you have to grow effectively, so we’re doing it on a market-by-market basis,” Battistoni said.

The footlong news means that Sahlen’s aficionados will get more access to the supersize dog.

Until now, footlongs were sold only to restaurants and food service distributors. Some enterprising grocers, such as Dash’s and Budwey’s, bought the footlongs in bulk from restaurant suppliers and sold them in their deli departments. But this is the first time the Buffalo-based company has packaged the product for widespread distribution.

The dogs will be sold in 1.5-pound bags, containing eight footlongs per package.

Wegmans will get the first shipment next month, with other stores such as Tops Markets following soon after.

Sahlen’s said consumers have been asking for retail access to footlongs for years, and the company is happy to finally oblige. The company also hopes the novelty will give the company an end-of-season sales bump. Hot dog sales are highly seasonal, hitting their peak around Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. But the introduction of the sought-after footlongs could keep sales steady through September, the company said.

And don’t worry: Schwebel’s makes footlong buns, which already are on store shelves.

email: schristmann@buffnews.com

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