ASK COOKING LIGHT TOUR SUITS TASTES AT SHAW'S

EAST BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- Management at Shaw's Supermarkets here had high praise for a health and fitness exhibit that visited 15 of the chain's 87 stores this year.The Ask Cooking Light Tour, which stopped at nearly 150 supermarkets nationwide from June through late November, featured a tractor-trailer carrying two tons of recipe cards, coupons, nutritional information and product samples. It also

EAST BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- Management at Shaw's Supermarkets here had high praise for a health and fitness exhibit that visited 15 of the chain's 87 stores this year.

The Ask Cooking Light Tour, which stopped at nearly 150 supermarkets nationwide from June through late November, featured a tractor-trailer carrying two tons of recipe cards, coupons, nutritional information and product samples. It also featured a $1 million sweepstakes. Conducted by Cooking Light, a food and fitness magazine, Ask Cooking Light attracted between 1,000 and 1,500 consumers daily, organizers said.

Susan Sundaram, consumer information specialist at Shaw's, said management teams at all Shaw's stores visited by the tour recommended the chain participate again next year. Positive customer feedback and ease of participation were among the strong points, they said. A decision on Shaw's participation in 1995 won't be made until Cooking Light makes its presentation on the 1995 tour, Sundaram said.

Sundaram, who coordinated Shaw's participation in the tour, said she liked the promotion because it gave Shaw's a chance to attract shoppers and also provide a customer service. "We always try to provide the same type of information for those of our customers who choose to be selective in the way they make their purchases," said Sundaram, a registered dietitian.

Sundaram said Cooking Light was able to tailor the promotion somewhat to meet each chain's needs. In Shaw's case, that meant the trailer did not contain coupons for items not carried by Shaw's, "because that would be a point of frustration for our customers," she said.

Only retailers who carry Cooking Light magazine were selected to participate in the program. Albertson's, Boise, Idaho, was the most visited chain during the

tour, accounting for nearly 40 stops. Among the other chains included on the tour, which made its debut in 1993, were: Safeway, Oakland, Calif.; Kroger Co., Cincinnati; Bruno's, Birmingham, Ala.; Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla.; Harris Teeter, Charlotte, N.C.; Dominick's Finer Foods, Northlake, Ill., and Tops Markets, Buffalo, N.Y. Officials at several of these chains were unavailable for comment when contacted by SN.

Scanning data of four tour sponsors, supplied to SN by Cooking Light, showed sales increases that ranged from 3% to 71% for a three-week period in which the tour visited Shaw's locations throughout New England. Data for the remaining six sponsors was not available, said Mark Dodge, coordinator of the tour.

Both Dodge and Sundaram said consumer feedback was a more reliable way to measure this effort because the scanning data compared sales of the sponsors' products to six weeks before and six weeks after the tour. "Some of these items normally sell strong at this time anyway," Sundaram said.

Dodge said Cooking Light compiled consumer feedback by surveying some of the exhibit's visitors during the first 15 stops. Forty-five percent termed the exhibit an incentive to shop at the host supermarket; 48% used the coupons they collected at the exhibit, and 51% said they would plan their shopping trip around the time and location of the display.

Jeffrey C. Ward, publisher of Cooking Light, Birmingham, Ala., said tour stops lasted one to three days. Signs were placed in the stores prior to the visit, and local advertising was used to bring attention to the event. In some cases, health fairs or exercise instruction were tied in with the tour through local outlets.

Stores displayed the products featured on the tour. Some stores also conducted demos of the tour items.

"The key to the success of this sort of program is to get the support at the store level," Ward said. Tour personnel assist in that process by arriving at each stop several days before the trailer.

Products became tour items through corporate sponsorship of the venture. Sponsorship consisted of three advertisements in Cooking Light and an additional $33,000 payment. Sponsors for 1994 included General Mills' Pop Secret Pop Chips and Nature Valley Low-Fat Granola Bars, Reynolds Plastic Wrap, Butterball Turkey Products, McIlhenny Tabasco Sauce, Stouffer's Lean Cuisine, America's Growers, Dean Foods' Larsen Veg-All, Fresh Express, Jergens, and Easy Spirit shoes.

The 1995 tour will be similar to this year's event, Ward said.