GOLD PENGUINS WADDLING THEIR WAY TO WINNERS

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Six retail food chains won Gold Penguin awards, and a Kroger unit in Jackson, Ohio, had the best overall store effort during National Frozen Food Month, the National Frozen Food Association here has announced. At the same time, sales of frozen foods during March 2000 went up by 1.2% in units and by 4.5% in dollars, the NFFA reported.In San Antonio, employees of the 47-unit, family-owned

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Six retail food chains won Gold Penguin awards, and a Kroger unit in Jackson, Ohio, had the best overall store effort during National Frozen Food Month, the National Frozen Food Association here has announced. At the same time, sales of frozen foods during March 2000 went up by 1.2% in units and by 4.5% in dollars, the NFFA reported.

In San Antonio, employees of the 47-unit, family-owned Super S Foods celebrated June 22, when the confirmation letter arrived.

"We had an all-out effort, starting with our frozen-food merchandisers," said James Hanson, vice president of advertising for Mass Marketing, the company that does business as Super S Foods.

"We put together a plan with massive point-of-sale material, getting all of our team members behind it, making sure they understood, in late January or the first part of February," he explained. A series of ads throughout March was done in a tabloid format, with the inside spread devoted to frozens each week, in full color, featuring frozen foods from every category -- breakfast, lunch, dinner and "quick-to-fix" meal ideas, along the NFFA theme of "Easy Home Meals With Frozen Food." More than 250,000 of the circulars were distributed every week, Hanson said, and there was also a monthly tabloid made available to shoppers in the store. It, too, had an inside spread and a couple of front-page features.

One more thing that Super S Foods did was tie in with the local Juvenile Diabetes chapter, which provided materials on the importance of healthy eating, which frozen foods are part of. The food-store chain did not raise any funds for the diabetes chapter, but it made a donation, Hanson said. There will be a walk in October to raise money that the food retailer will help promote.

"This is our first gold, and we are just thrilled about it," Hanson said.

Charlotte, N.C.-based Harris Teeter's flagship Morecross store 160 will get a Gold Penguin for "best retail display," and another Harris Teeter unit, in Concord, N.C., will receive the Silver Penguin in that same category. Brokers Marketing Specialists shared the gold and Acosta Sales & Marketing shared the silver. Both are located in Charlotte. The glass Penguin awards will be presented at a luncheon during the annual convention, co-sponsored by the NFFA and the American Frozen Food Institute, to be held Oct. 14 to 18 in San Francisco.

Deborah Creech, frozen-food manager at the winning Kroger store in Jackson, Ohio, told the NFFA that she wanted her customers to know that "frozen food is really easy to fix, and that it tastes very good, also." So she played videotapes of customers and store employees "letting everyone know what their favorite frozen food is, and why.

"After getting permission from the National Frozen Food Association, I also had employees present some kitchen safety tips found on the Web site, located at easyhomemeals.com," Creech added.

Gold Penguin winning retail chains were: Big Y Foods, Springfield, Mass.; Super S Foods, San Antonio; Harmons City, West Valley City, Utah; Food Lion, Salisbury, N.C.; Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla.; and Ralphs Grocery Co., Compton, Calif. There were 30 Gold Penguin winners and 35 Silver Penguin winners, culled from hundreds of entries from across the country.

Retail cooperatives Wakefern Food Corp., Elizabeth, N.J., which supplies ShopRite stores, won a gold, and Unified Western Grocers, San Ramon, Calif., won a silver. Fleming, Lewisville, Texas, won a gold for Retail Corporate Wholesaler, while Roundy's, Pewaukee, Wis., won a silver in that category.

Fleming Cos., Salt Lake City, was judged best retail wholesaler division. A raft of brokers, frozen-food organizations and others were also honored. And, two Wegmans Food Markets units won Silver Penguins, along with six more retail chains and three individual stores -- the Harris Teeter, a Kings Super Markets store and a Publix -- in the 17th annual contest.

"It seemed like the judges were looking for the most well-rounded entries that covered all the different areas, display as well as overall store effort, advertising and community service," said Julie Henderson, the NFFA's vice president of communications.

"In particular they liked the entries that were able to document their results," she added.