RETAILER ROLE IN PILLSBURY BIG BROTHERS PLAN GROWING

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Customer Community Partnership program run by Pillsbury Co. here to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters nationwide has seen retailer participation increase from 74 stores in 1998 to 88 now, with more growth expected, said Becky Erdahl, vice president of community affairs and diversity for Pillsbury.The program, which became exclusive last year, has also seen growth in terms of dollars

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Customer Community Partnership program run by Pillsbury Co. here to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters nationwide has seen retailer participation increase from 74 stores in 1998 to 88 now, with more growth expected, said Becky Erdahl, vice president of community affairs and diversity for Pillsbury.

The program, which became exclusive last year, has also seen growth in terms of dollars committed. "We distributed about $300,000 to the Big Brothers Big Sisters programs around the country during 1998 and we have committed $500,000 this year," Erdahl said. A study conducted by Public Private Ventures, Philadelphia, found that Big Brothers Big Sisters relationships, which match a child with an adult, help decrease the likelihood that child will become involved in drugs or alcohol, skip school, or have problems with authority figures, Erdahl said.

Some of the largest participating retailers include Affiliated Foods, Omaha, Neb.; Albertson's, Boise, Idaho; Fleming, Oklahoma City; Giant Food Stores, Carlisle, Pa.; Golub Price Chopper, Albany, N.Y.; Hannaford Bros., Scarborough, Maine; Hy-Vee, West Des Moines, Iowa; Midwest Wholesalers, Flint, Mich.; Nash Finch Co., Minneapolis; Piggly Wiggly, Memphis, Tenn.; Raley's Supermarkets, West Sacramento, Calif.; Ralphs and Food 4 Less, Los Angeles; Roundy's, Pewaukee, Wis.; Safeway Eastern, Lanham, Md.; VOS Ad Group, Centerville, Mich.; and Winn-Dixie Stores' units in Fort Worth, Texas, and Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville, Fla.

"The grants that we do are tied to their promotions and range from $1,000 to significantly larger numbers," Erdahl said. It helps Pillsbury's business in giving the manufacturer a way "to be involved in the communities where we don't have a physical presence.

"It helps us build relationships with our customers in a new, fresher way. It helps our customers in that we know that consumers want to support causes that are important to them, and not much is more important than kids." On a practical retail level, "if you want to get traffic into your store, the advertising and promotions that are involved help your business," Erdahl added.

If the retailer wants to get involved but doesn't know where to start, Pillsbury offers a turnkey program in which the retailer isn't required to make a financial donation, but has the option of matching a gift. "If a retailer were interested in joining, he would call a Pillsbury salesperson and as long as we still have money left for this -- and it's early in our fiscal year now -- then they could set up an event and plan a promotion around Big Brothers Big Sisters."

IGA, the Chicago-based network of independent supermarkets, announced Sept. 23 that it is running the "IGA Hometown Meal Makers" program to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters. When a shopper purchases select Pillsbury products, a donation will be made to the charity. Promotional books contain more than 20 quick meal ideas, more than $10 in coupons on national brands and 12 Pillsbury Bake-Off Hall of Fame recipes, which celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the Bake-Off, a national, biennial contest.

The Pillsbury Bake-Off grand prize is $1 million, and winners are chosen at random from entrants who used a Pillsbury product to develop a recipe.

Piggly Wiggly, too, announced it will donate $35,000 to Big Brothers Big Sisters.