EPPA ADDS FRESH MEAT PRODUCT CATEGORY

HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, N.J. -- The Eastern Perishable Products Association here has added fresh meat as a product category, formed a meat committee and slated a meat seminar to be held during its Annual Taste Show and Exhibition this fall.The EPPA board voted unanimously to create a separate fresh meat category for many of the same reasons it voted two years ago to create a separate category for seafood,

HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, N.J. -- The Eastern Perishable Products Association here has added fresh meat as a product category, formed a meat committee and slated a meat seminar to be held during its Annual Taste Show and Exhibition this fall.

The EPPA board voted unanimously to create a separate fresh meat category for many of the same reasons it voted two years ago to create a separate category for seafood, said Marvin Spira, EPPA executive director.

"It's the departmental grayness, the blurring of the lines between departments in supermarkets these days. With all the prepackaged meats, and some items marinated, some cooked, the lines are becoming even less defined," Spira said.

The growing number of value-added meat products and innovations in packaging and merchandising make the meat department an exciting one with terrific growth potential, he added.

A retailer-member of the newly formed meat committee echoed that sentiment and explained how EPPA's action will benefit supermarket operators.

"The decision really makes sense. The meat business is changing and this gives EPPA an opportunity to inform and educate retailers about what's going on in the category," said Mark Greenberg, vice president, meat, for Wakefern Food Corp., Elizabeth, N.J., a retailer-owned cooperative that's the wholesale, merchandising and distribution arm for 190 ShopRite stores in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Delaware. "At the convention, for example, we're bringing together some of the major packers so they can update us on the issues. And there are a lot of them, like case-ready and irradiation and new government regulations."

Greenberg also said retailers will have the chance to visit booths at the show to see what's new. He pointed out that this will give the heavy concentration of meat buyers and decision makers in the Northeast a chance to see what's going on in the category by attending a show in their own region.

"It opens up the possibility for smaller companies, some independents who might not send their people to a national show," Greenberg added.

Spira said the board had these things in mind when it voted to change the association's name. In 1997, it voted to change the association's name from Eastern Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association to Eastern Perishable Products Association, as reported in SN. At that time, Spira said, "The new name better defines what we do."

He explained that the name change signified a wish to widen the association's scope to encompass any perishables category that it might deem appropriate to take under its umbrella.

By breaking out meat as a category, EPPA will be better able to focus on helping retailers capitalize on the opportunity the category represents -- just as it has done with seafood, the executive director added.

EPPA's first meat seminar is set for 11 a.m. on October 18 and 19, both days of the EPPA Taste Show and Exhibition at the Meadowlands Convention Center, Secaucus, N.J. It particularly will focus on case-ready meats and the effective merchandising of them.

"There have been so many advances in packaging, and with everybody getting into tray packs there is a lot to address. There are merchandising and marketing incentives we need to talk about. Our panel will have representatives from the major packers like Iowa Beef Packing, Excel Corp., Reiser Packaging, Pinnacle Foods and Nebraska Meats," Spira said.

"Mark Greenberg from Wakefern and Charlie Nuara from Pathmark will help facilitate that program."

Nuara is meat director at Pathmark Stores, Woodbridge, N.J. He, like Greenberg, is a member of EPPA's newly formed meat committee. The 15-person panel includes representatives from the principal retail companies in the Mid-Atlantic states, including Grand Union, A&P, Food Emporium, King Kullen and Key Food. Also represented on the committee are packers, wholesalers and distributors.

This is the first time in several years that EPPA has held a seminar during its Annual Taste Show & Exhibition, which was relocated this year to the Meadowlands Convention Center to better accommodate an educational program, Spira said. For the past several years, the event has been held at the New Jersey Convention Center in Edison, N.J.

Likewise, the new location is physically closer to New York City, Spira noted.

"People coming to the show from out of town can get into New York in 10 minutes. Also, we think we'll get more retailers from the metropolitan area attending this year," Spira said.

The site is easily accessible via public transportation, and people who might not want to spend the entire day at the show are more apt to attend, he said.