ASSOCIATIONS REPORT THE INDUSTRY EARNS AN 'A'

Food-industry associations last week said the Y2K crisis showed the supermarket business at its best.They pointed to the cooperation among associations and companies that made a smooth transition into the New Year possible.Timothy M. Hammonds, president and chief executive officer of the Food Marketing Institute, Washington, said the supermarket industry emerged in excellent shape because of good

Food-industry associations last week said the Y2K crisis showed the supermarket business at its best.

They pointed to the cooperation among associations and companies that made a smooth transition into the New Year possible.

Timothy M. Hammonds, president and chief executive officer of the Food Marketing Institute, Washington, said the supermarket industry emerged in excellent shape because of good news on the technology and consumer-reaction fronts.

"The technical problems didn't happen," he said, citing extensive preparatory work by the FMI, its members and trading partners. "The industry was well advised to spend the money to ensure the problems didn't come through.

"We also didn't have the panic buying or runs on the supermarkets," he added.

The FMI, which began its Y2K preparations about two years ago, has been operating an e-mail share group that helped ensure readiness and served as a key communications device leading into the New Year's period, Hammonds said.

"We put together the group during the summer so that our members could communicate their progress on-line to others," Hammonds said.

As the New Year came, the FMI used the system to track how retailers were doing and provide information to the White House and the public on how the industry was being affected.

John Thompson, spokesman for the National Grocers Association, Reston, Va., said, "The industry was prepared. People recognized there were problems, and they went out and solved them."

Bob Gatty, vice president for communications and marketing at Food Distributors International, Falls Church, Va., said the potential crisis turned into a non-event because companies in the food industry were preparing to be in a position to serve their customers. "We are extremely happy that it went as well as it did."

Lisa McCue, manager of industry communications for the Grocery Manufacturers of America, Washington, said, "Things went tremendously well. We worked very closely with FMI and the government to come up with concise messages. We wanted to avoid the public hoarding of food.