PROMOTIONS ARE FUELED BY COLLABORATIONS

CHICAGO -- The supermarket industry is known for its savvy in forming promotional partnerships -- with suppliers, community organizations and other parties.One of the most skilled retailers at forming these partnerships is IGA, based here, which has recently been committed to further developing such efforts."We've always had partnerships, but now we're taking them to a higher level," said Shannan

CHICAGO -- The supermarket industry is known for its savvy in forming promotional partnerships -- with suppliers, community organizations and other parties.

One of the most skilled retailers at forming these partnerships is IGA, based here, which has recently been committed to further developing such efforts.

"We've always had partnerships, but now we're taking them to a higher level," said Shannan Blagg, IGA communications director. "It's a new era for these programs at IGA."

Among the latest partnership news from this retail group:

IGA is partnering with U.S. Space Camp for a large retailer-funded scholarship program that will send 1,800 children for space exploration-related educational courses at U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., or Titusville, Fla. The recently completed pilot program awarded 16 scholarships.

The retail group will sponsor "IGA Country Jam" in Eau Claire, Wis., July 19 to 21, 2002, which will feature a concert for some 250,000 people and offer a platform to promote IGA and supplier partners.

IGA is cross-marketing its own label products with manufacturer-brand items in national promotions. IGA's promotions typically involve its Red Oval Family of partners, which is a coalition of national and international manufacturers.

Another upcoming IGA promotion that shows its enhanced partnering efforts is called IGA's Hometown Holidays, which will run in November and December of this year. It mixes and matches a wide range of elements, helping to ensure it touches the widest networks of consumers and partners.

For instance, it is partly a nationwide consumer sweepstakes, partly an anti-hunger program. It also includes coupon savings, in-store promotions, a cookbook offer and special programs being developed at the discretion of local retailers.

But partnering is at the core of the program. Partners in the project include Unilever Bestfoods, a cooking school and a network of anti-hunger organizations. Here are some details of the program:

ANTI-HUNGER ACTIVITIES: IGA has partnered with Unilever Bestfoods and anti-hunger groups in an effort to help put an end to childhood hunger in America. Unilever Bestfoods has committed $3 million over the next three years -- in addition to fund raising, product and marketing support -- for Hunger Free America. That organization is a multiyear initiative to end hunger by promoting public leadership and government responsibility and providing food and security to America's 14 million needy children. The initiative plans to make progress through education, high-profile events and coalition building. Hunger Free America is a partnership of the Center on Hunger and Poverty, the Entertainment Industry Foundation and the End Hunger Network (founded by actor Jeff Bridges).

IGA retailers will help support Hunger Free America by working on a state-by-state level with local celebrities, schools, regional food banks and other community organizations and staging in-store events. "We look at promotions through the retailers' perspective," Blagg said. "IGA retailers are local, so they decide how to take this to the local level."

As part of the program, consumers can receive a cookbook featuring recipes from leading celebrities. The book includes interviews with the celebrities about why they are committed to ending hunger in America.

The program also enables IGA store shoppers to make direct contributions by purchasing bags prepacked with shelf-stable groceries, which are then donated to food banks. Many of the food items will carry labels from IGA and Unilever Bestfoods.

"This anti-hunger program gives us a national platform for the issue," said Mark Harsha, president of Harsha & Associates, who directs IGA's promotional activities. "We're donating to food banks and working to stamp out child hunger."

The anti-hunger efforts will be promoted through FSIs and TV and radio public service announcements. An FSI in November will offer coupon savings for a wide variety of Unilever Best Foods brands, and there will be merchandising opportunities with shelf-talkers supporting the anti-hunger initiative.

"Our partnership with IGA is invaluable in helping Unilever Bestfoods to help end hunger in America. It's only when manufacturers and retailers come together that we have the power to make a difference and end hunger for 14 million kids in America," said Lisa Klauser, vice president of consumer activation, Unilever Bestfoods, Englewood Cliffs, N.J. RECIPE SWEEPSTAKES: Hometown Holidays also includes a sweepstakes in which the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago is partnering with IGA. The institute will choose 10 winning recipes from entries sent by consumers. Red Oval Family partners participating in this promotion include Coca-Cola, Nabisco, Kraft, Unilever Bestfoods, Campbell's, Nestle, Pillsbury, Procter & Gamble, Morton Salt, Anheuser-Busch and Welch's. Winning recipes must include at least two items from the partners.

"We do a sweepstakes every year, but this year we decided to go back to basics with a recipe challenge," said Blagg.

The 10 grand prize winners will get a three-day/three-night stay in Chicago while attending school at the institute. Winners will also be awarded a lunch and dinner for two at a fine Chicago restaurant.

Programs such as these certainly help publicize partnering organizations, but they also have the benefit of building industry community and collaboration, Blagg said. For instance, companies joining in these promotions learn more about each other and share best practices.

"Sometimes IGA is like a hub that connects retailers, distributors and manufacturers," Blagg explained.