RETAILERS ARE READYING 5-A-DAY PROMOTION

Retailers across the country are gearing up for the second annual 5-a-Day Week, which is expected to garner more promotional activity than last year's produce promotion campaign.The campaign, which is scheduled for Sept. 11 to 17, is designed to give retailers, suppliers and health officials a focused time period for promoting the 5-a-Day message to eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables

Retailers across the country are gearing up for the second annual 5-a-Day Week, which is expected to garner more promotional activity than last year's produce promotion campaign.

The campaign, which is scheduled for Sept. 11 to 17, is designed to give retailers, suppliers and health officials a focused time period for promoting the 5-a-Day message to eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day for better health.

The week of activities is being coordinated by the Produce for Better Health Foundation, Newark, Del., and the National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Md., co-sponsors of the national 5-a-Day program. Retailers are planning ads, special promotions, product demonstrations, community activities and special events to attract media attention. A handbook for the week to help members of the Produce for Better Health Foundation plan promotions was mailed out in June. Numerous states also have coalitions of health educators and health agencies that are working with retailers for the event.

One large Midwest retailer is focusing its efforts for 5-a-Day Week on children, by offering store tours as well as classroom presentations to area schools.

"Kids are our future customers," said the chain's produce director, who asked not to be identified. "We believe targeting children can make shopping fun and interactive and it helps get the parents involved. It gets them back in the stores, and it takes the routine out of the shopping experience."

Store tours are scheduled to last about one hour, said the director, during which time store personnel will teach school children the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables as well as distribute produce-themed materials, such as cookbooks, magnets,

coloring books and puzzles.

The children, in grades 1 to 5, will also have the opportunity to taste different produce items.

The in-school presentations are for schools that cannot bring classes to a store and are designed to be like a "pep rally," said the produce director. Store personnel and office volunteers will dress up in fruit and vegetable costumes and distribute produce samples and materials to the children. They will also deliver a presentation on the nutritional value of produce.

The retailer will also promote 5-a-Day Week in its regular ad circulars and will work with its public relations agency to solicit news media coverage.

In southern California, about nine supermarket chains -- up from seven in 1993 -- are expected to participate in the second annual Produce Tasting Blitz held in conjunction with 5-a-Day Week.

The program, coordinated by the Fresh Produce & Floral Council, Los Angeles, will place product demonstrators in more than 600 supermarkets during a four-day period, Sept. 15 to 18, according to Barbara Buck, spokeswoman for the industry group, which promotes fresh produce and cut flowers to the southern California market.

The demonstrators will provide consumers with samples of a variety of produce items as well as nutritional and recipe information, Buck said. The companies conducting the demonstrations have been asked to use 5-a-Day promotional materials to decorate their tables, she said.

Roger Schroeder, vice president of produce at Hughes Family Markets, Irwindale, Calif., who plans to participate in the Produce Tasting Blitz again this year, said he will promote the demos through his weekly ad circular as well as with signs in his 52 stores.

Schroeder, past president of the Produce for Better Health Foundation, said that last year's event was very successful, not necessarily because of sales increases, but because it helped draw public attention to the 5-a-Day message.

"I don't know how you can measure the impact on sales, but from the comments we received, it obviously created a lot of excitement in our stores. From that standpoint I'd call it a success," he said.

According to Buck of the Fresh Produce & Floral Council, the strength of the tasting program is in the numbers of stores participating and promoting the 5-a-Day message to consumers.

"Because the demos will be done in so many stores throughout southern California they should attract greater media attention, which will further amplify the message. You can be one voice in a canyon or you can join in with other voices and be heard."