RLB DISTRIBUTORS SETS THE STAGE FOR 'FUTURE' FOOD SHOW

WEST CALDWELL, N.J. -- RLB Food Distributors here is staging what it expects to be a one-of-a-kind food show, one that will assemble cutting-edge products for supermarket produce, deli and home-meal replacement sections under one roof and a single theme: food retailing for the future.More than 150 food companies have signed on to exhibit at the show, which is being held April 28, 1998 at the Meadowland

WEST CALDWELL, N.J. -- RLB Food Distributors here is staging what it expects to be a one-of-a-kind food show, one that will assemble cutting-edge products for supermarket produce, deli and home-meal replacement sections under one roof and a single theme: food retailing for the future.

More than 150 food companies have signed on to exhibit at the show, which is being held April 28, 1998 at the Meadowland Exposition Center in New Jersey, according to Rob Bildner, president of RLB Food Distributors.

"We will have an outstanding representation of suppliers from all over the world. The focus in every case is on new products, innovative products and products that address trends that are important to the future of the business," said Bildner in an interview with SN. "This will be a special selection of products, from organics to HMR, from healthy eating to value-added and specialty foods, that I think have not been seen together at other venues. These are products that are going to be essential to the future of perishables departments."

The exhibitors are all RLB vendors. The distributor is a regional company specializing in fresh foods and specialty products, serving retailers that primarily operate stores in the Northeast. Bildner said he thought the time was right for such a product show, because he sees the supermarket trade reaching a "crossroads" at which they must find new ways to grow their market share.

"The consumer is changing and the market is changing," Bildner said. "Baby Boomers are aging, and healthy-product categories, convenience and HMR are all big factors in serving these customers. Food service has done a lot of replacing meals at home, but I expect that further changes in consumer trends by the year 2000 will be changing that focus back to the home, and the retailers' opportunities will never be better, if they have the right products to work with.

"These changes are causing us to focus on our role as a specialist in selling, merchandising and distributing foods we think will fit well with these trends. The role of this show is to bring the trends that mark the changing consumer market to light," Bildner said. "Because we are not busy with the day-to-day concerns that keep retailers busy, we have a bit of luxury to think these trends through and relate them to product needs."

The event will feature more than new-product exhibits. It will include an educational component related to the show's theme, Bildner said. Among the highlights will be discussions about Internet shopping by an executive from the electronic shopping firm Cybershop; Frieda Kaplan, founder of the produce wholesaling company Frieda's, who will talk about the specialty-produce market; a presentation on food safety by pesticide-testing firm NutriClean; and models of produce and deli departments of the future, fully merchandised and staffed with experts from RLB.

"The products we will have there are, we believe, the cutting- edge options that consumers are looking for and will be looking for. These departments will be eye-catching, and eye openers, for many retailers. They will see stuff they have never seen before, and certainly that they've never seen before merchandised expertly in one place."