PROJECT INFO IS GATHERING MOMENTUM

OAK BROOK, Ill. -- Project Info, a multicompany effort to develop practical methods for electronic communication of promotion information between brand marketers and retailers, is gaining momentum as more companies sign on for pilot testing.Originally involving Pet Inc. and a handful of brokers, Project Info has attracted at least eight more manufacturers, and enjoys aggressive support from the National

OAK BROOK, Ill. -- Project Info, a multicompany effort to develop practical methods for electronic communication of promotion information between brand marketers and retailers, is gaining momentum as more companies sign on for pilot testing.

Originally involving Pet Inc. and a handful of brokers, Project Info has attracted at least eight more manufacturers, and enjoys aggressive support from the National Food Brokers Association and software suppliers.

Project Info is aimed at developing standard ways of transmitting information about promotion offers, offer acceptance, price changes, item maintenance, marketing development funds and other key matters via computer using electronic data interchange. Its goals are to improve promotion performance and largely eliminate associated paperwork and invoice deductions.

Participating in a spring meeting of the Project Info Users Group here were representatives from Clorox Co., Tambrands, Nabisco Foods Group, Veryfine Products, DowBrands, Pillsbury, Reckitt & Coleman and Coca-Cola Foods, according to minutes from that meeting made available to Brand Marketing.

Brokers at the meeting included Bromar; Carey, Ahrens & Raynsford; Morris Alper; Marketing Specialists Sales Co., and Sales Force Cos. At least six software companies also participated.

Among ongoing Project Info activities, the Pet pilot is the most advanced, having been initiated in January of this year. Pet is focusing on the transaction sets for marketing development funds allocation and promotion announcements. Plans also include tests of the commitment and settlement functions of MDF.

Results of the Pet pilot are not due to be reported until later this month. However Dick Fox, Pet manager of EDI, told the group he is hopeful that all the company's brokers will be capable of sending and receiving the MDF transaction sets by the end of the current calendar year.

Robert Drury, Pet's vice president of management information systems, told Brand Marketing that because of spirited competition among software companies, brokers are rapidly gaining access to the necessary software. With that outlook, Pet recently issued a letter to all its brokers stating that its position will be to roll out Project Info nationally in the fourth quarter of this year.

"We are already telling our trade partners that we are going forward," he said.

Gary Pinkowski, director of business development and sales technology at Nabisco Foods Group, reported that a second pilot project at his company is focusing on the MDF settlement transaction set and electronic funds transfer in order to clear deductions as quickly as possible without a paper trail.

Among other reports from the users group meeting:

Clorox reported that it is now designing its internal promotion processing system. Upon completion of that task it will begin work on the MDF transaction sets.

Coca-Cola Foods said it is currently receiving the promotion announcement transaction set from brokers and expects to implement the MDF settlement transaction set during the second half of 1994.

Pillsbury reported that it is currently implementing a proprietary MDF system with its direct sales force and some of its brokers. It plans to develop EDI capability for MDFs sometime later this year. The company said it is also investigating the use of Project Info transaction sets for broker commissions and unsalables.