PROMOTIONAL TOUR WILL PROMOTE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES

WILMINGTON, Del. -- Frozen fruits and vegetables, along with fresh and canned produce, have been targeted for promotion by the Produce For Better Health Foundation here, as part of a tour kicking off next month.The foundation's most ambitious promotion to date, the "Five A Day Across the USA" tour will stop at 16 retail locations from Florida to New York, according to Amy Waibel, retail marketing

WILMINGTON, Del. -- Frozen fruits and vegetables, along with fresh and canned produce, have been targeted for promotion by the Produce For Better Health Foundation here, as part of a tour kicking off next month.

The foundation's most ambitious promotion to date, the "Five A Day Across the USA" tour will stop at 16 retail locations from Florida to New York, according to Amy Waibel, retail marketing manager.

Frozen fruits and vegetables should be advertised, the foundation says, in its "Ideas for Retail Activities." In-store coupons should be offered, and cross merchandising is encouraged. For example, the foundation suggests putting potatoes on sale along with frozen broccoli florets or frozen chopped spinach. It urges retailers to offer a low-fat Five A Day recipe that encourages customers to use these products.

Another specific suggestion is to demonstrate fruits and vegetables, perhaps by a "Taste Our New Juice" promotion in the frozens aisle.

A total of 5.5 million consumers along the way will be targeted, Waibel said, and one million will be asked to take the Five A Day pledge to eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables.

The tour starts May 20 in Orlando, Fla., and winds up in New York on May 27. Locations were chosen for their previous support of the national Five A Day program. The Five A Day team includes Produce Man (a 7-foot-tall live action character in a costume composed of over 104 colorful fruits and vegetables) and two companions.

At each stop there will be storewide participation that ties in fresh, frozen, canned, dried and juices categories, plus in-store tastings of products from 25 of the foundation's industry members, Waibel said. Retailers set to participate in "Five A Day Across the USA" are Goodings, Winn-Dixie, Publix, Kroger, Supervalu, Harris Teeter, Bi-Lo, Food Lion, Ukrop's, Acme, Genuardi's, Kings, Grand Union and Wakefern/ShopRite, Waibel said.

Not only is the foundation planning to pledge a million consumers to eat more fruits and vegetables, it is also lobbying to replace grain products with fruits and vegetables as the foundation of the USDA's Food Pyramid by the year 2000. In addition, the nonprofit group is getting ready to release promotional materials for the annual National Five A Day Week (Sept. 12-18) and Month (September).

Mike Kemp, produce merchandising manager for Supervalu, Eden Prairie, Minn., and a board member of the foundation, told SN he tries to encourage the use of fresh and/or frozen produce.

"Sometimes the frozen is more convenient," he said. "We do promote quite heavily, with a merchandising award for the retailer who does the best at promoting the message that Americans should eat at least five a day.

"It's more than building fancy displays. It means getting the whole community involved," said Kemp, offering examples such as the high-school marching band that put the Five A Day logo on their tubas for the homecoming parade. Another innovative promotional example, sent in by a store, involved a church pastor in a small community who started his homily with "You hear a lot about Five A Day for physical health; well, here are five steps toward spiritual health."

Waibel said her office works with 30,000 to 35,000 food stores a year in its Get Fit With Five A Day promotional program. Licensed Five A Day retailers pay an average of $500 for the right to use the foundation's logo, she said.

"It is viewed as a contribution to the industry," Waibel said. She added that Kroger's Atlanta division and the Kroger company support the foundation with an additional $20,000. Supervalu, to name another, donates $10,000 a year.

According to Waibel, 71% of consumers have been motivated to purchase more as a result of in-store Five A Day programs.

Meanwhile, the American Frozen Food Institute, McLean, Va., set up a new Five A Day Web site, which reported 55,000 hits in its first month, according to Chris Krese, AFFI spokesman. The site, at www.healthyfood.org, features a description of the Five A Day program; serving-size information relevant to frozen-food products; information about the FDA's approval of AFFI's healthy petition for frozen-produce labeling; menus and recipes; and a special section for children.

The Five A Day goal is based on the National Cancer Institute's recommendation to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day to help prevent cancer and other chronic diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes.

"We want to put fruits and vegetables at the center of the plate for better health. Diet-related illnesses could be reduced by one-third if people just ate five or more fruits and vegetables a day," said Waibel.

In other Five A Day news, Co-Sales Company, Phoenix, in conjunction with PictSweet Frozen Foods, Bells, Tenn., and the Valley of the Sun YMCA in greater Phoenix, has developed a program to educate consumers on the value of AFFI's Five A Day program.

"We have been accepted as a mission partner [by the YMCA]; we will work throughout 1999 and will donate a certain percentage of the proceeds of each case we sell to the YMCA [which has 12 branches]," said Jeff Nelson, senior vice president of frozens for Co-Sales.

"The Y is really looking forward to this relationship," said Susan Waschler, vice president of fund development for the Valley of the Sun YMCA. The money donated by Co-Sales will go to the youth sports program, she said. Last year nearly 46,000 children and teens participated in sports programs sponsored by the Valley of the Sun YMCA, Waschler said.

PictSweet is a division of United Foods, Bells, Tenn. Nelson said the parent company is interested in this project, which was launched March 1.