PORK PROMOTION PROLONGED BY NATIONAL GROUPS

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Even though October -- National Pork Month -- is nearly over, the promotion of pork will continue, thanks to a marketing initiative that will remain in effect long after the official month-long promotion ends.So said John Hagerla, director of marketing for the National Pork Producers Council here, which sponsors the annual promotion along with the National Pork Board, also here,

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Even though October -- National Pork Month -- is nearly over, the promotion of pork will continue, thanks to a marketing initiative that will remain in effect long after the official month-long promotion ends.

So said John Hagerla, director of marketing for the National Pork Producers Council here, which sponsors the annual promotion along with the National Pork Board, also here, through a national check-off program.

This year's campaign -- unlike the 25 before it -- is being buoyed and supported by the introduction of a sister campaign that kicked off in tandem with National Pork Month, but will actually run through the end of the year. The promotion, also sponsored by the NPPC and NPB, features the theme, "Pork. The Other White Sale."

According to a company press release, the longer-running program "plays off the traditional department store 'white sale' with pork's own nationally recognized popular slogan, "Pork. The Other White Meat."

"It's taking consumer awareness to a much higher level" than would have existed with the sole use of the National Pork Month campaign, said Hagerla, adding that the supporting campaign is also a "good example of how the pork industry will continue to market itself in 1999."

Hagerla said he expects a similar themed campaign to accompany next year's "National Pork Month" promotion.

The "Pork. The Other White Sale" campaign, along with future promotions strategically positioned to extend awareness through the holiday season, will help the NPPC and the NPB achieve their goal of "making pork the new holiday meal tradition," according to Hagerla.

It will also help increase consumer demand for pork during a time of year when supplies are traditionally among their highest, he said.

In the past, the NPPC and NPB have narrowed the gap between supply and demand during this crucial time by naming October as National Pork Month in an effort to increase consumption and thus prevent over-supply and product glut.

Pork is currently at one of the "largest surplus levels" recorded since the "National Pork Month" promotion began in 1972, and pork production for the fourth quarter is up more than 8% over the same time last year, according to Hagerla.

"There's a tremendous amount of pork moving through the system, and in an effort to keep it moving, we introduced 'Pork. The Other White Sale,"' he said.

So far, pork sales for October are "up dramatically," with retailers "promoting more pork than they ever have," said Hagerla, adding that "retail sales and profits are up big and continue to accelerate."

Hagerla estimates that more than 20,000 supermarket locations -- representing about 80% of the industry -- are participating in the promotional activities.

They're being backed by a wellspring of promotional support centered mostly around the "Pork. The Other White Sale" campaign.

For example, the "Pork. The Other White Sale" campaign was kicked off with a full-page advertisement in USA Today Sept. 23 and is being followed by four weeks of commercials that are airing on national cable TV, along with print advertisements in several national magazines.

Additional support includes two weeks of local television and radio advertisements, as well as four-color newspaper advertisements highlighting quick and easy-to-prepare recipes.

As for support materials, the NPPC and NPB are offering a promotional CD/ROM, colorful pork-package recipe stickers and special meat-case signage. They are also sponsoring a sweepstakes in selected markets where consumers can win a year's worth of pork, and in-store sampling featuring the creations of local chefs.

Among the markets getting heavier focus during the campaign are Boston; Orlando, Fla.; Houston; Charlotte, N.C.; Des Moines, Iowa; Minneapolis; Indianapolis; Phoenix; Sacramento/Modesto, Calif.; Chicago, and Denver, according to an NPPC news release.

In particular, the Phoenix market is the location for a co-marketing test that joins the area's major retailers in a common advertising campaign, according to Hagerla, who believes the test -- which spans television, radio and newspaper -- may mark the first time that competing supermarkets in a single market have shared advertising space.

For example, one of the advertisements, which has been running weekly since Sept. 23 and will extend through the end of this month, features a full-page newspaper insert that promotes the "Pork. The Other White Sale" slogan and includes the logos of six major retailers -- Albertson's, Safeway, Smith's Food & Drug Centers, Smitty's Food Stores, Fry's Food Stores of Arizona and Bashas' Markets.

Although it's not uncommon for a supermarket company to include its logo on such an advertisement, it is uncommon for competitors to do so together, said Hagerla.