TERM OF ENDEARMENT

Of the many issues SN covered in 1997, several left distinctive terms in retailers' vocabulary: functional foods, Deskfast, Integrated Pest Management and solution selling.All are terms that, while not necessarily new, became more recognizable. Among the trends that SN analyzed was the growing interest in grab-and-go foods, particularly for breakfast, hence the moniker "Deskfast."Functional foods,

Of the many issues SN covered in 1997, several left distinctive terms in retailers' vocabulary: functional foods, Deskfast, Integrated Pest Management and solution selling.

All are terms that, while not necessarily new, became more recognizable. Among the trends that SN analyzed was the growing interest in grab-and-go foods, particularly for breakfast, hence the moniker "Deskfast."

Functional foods, or nutraceuticals, also became more prevalent. Spurring their growth this year was the Food and Drug Administration's decision to allow health claims to be printed on labels of foods containing soluble fiber from whole oats.

And a study on solution selling helped give retailers more ideas on how to capitalize on the meal-solution movement. An expanded version of cross merchandising, solution selling involves bundling related products for a particular meal occasion. A second study will be conducted in 1998.

There also were several innovative programs launched in private label, such as Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans Food Markets' expansion of its private-label vegetables grown under Integrated Pest Management techniques.

Also prevalent in private label were packaging and brand changes. Carr Gottstein Foods, Anchorage, Alaska, converted its private-label line to the Springfield label, while Fleming Cos., Oklahoma City, announced plans to repackage its Best Yet private label.

Upscale and gourmet items like cigars and wine also got a boost at many chains. The new Palisades Market, Lake Oswego, Ore., for instance, caters to its customers by renting temperature-controlled wine lockers.

Natural- and organic-food sales also rose. In response, several chains opened new, or expanded existing, natural/organic departments.

But not all Center Store products had a prosperous year. The FDA implemented new tobacco rules requiring retailers to request ID from any shoppers under the age of 27. Though the legal age to buy cigarettes is 18, clerks much card all shoppers under the age of 27 and can be fined in the event of noncompliance.

Following is a review of some of the top news stories reported throughout the year:

JANUARY

Genuardi's Family Markets, Norristown, Pa., expects to nearly double sales of its store-brand products throughout the year through 400 new product introductions and increased sales of existing items. Among the new selections: cat and dog food, ice cream novelties, french fries, olive oil, dish detergent, laundry detergent and paper towels.

The Food and Drug Administration, acting on a petition from Quaker Oats, Chicago, allows health claims to be printed on labels of foods containing soluble fiber from whole oats. To qualify, the food must provide at least 0.75 grams of soluble fiber per serving.

A truck driver strike at Giant Food, Landover, Md., causes private-label stock shortages. The items are unavailable because the union members are drivers for Giant's distribution centers and private-label vendors.

SN reports on the popularity of convenient, handheld breakfast items that can be easily taken to the office or school. Microwavable oatmeal, cereal bars and frozen egg sandwiches are among the items that are appropriate for Deskfast.

Two Raleigh, N.C., Farmer Jack stores highlight locally produced Center Store items with the debut of "Flavors of North Carolina" sections. The 20-foot-long sections contain 100 stockkeeping units from about 40 local manufacturers. Farmer Jack is operated by A&P, Montvale, N.J.

Meijer, Grand Rapids, Mich., merchandises whole-bean coffee roasted exclusively for the chain by Starbucks, Seattle. The line, sold under the Navigator name, is comprised of three blends: house, Colombian and decaffeinated. Each is packaged in 2-pound bags.

FEBRUARY

Jewel Food Stores, Melrose Park, Ill., heavily promotes President's Choice Nutrition 1st, a new line of superpremium pet food. The line is aimed at competing with pet-shop-exclusive brands.

Slow-moving items can be an integral part of the store, Dan Raftery, president of Prime Consulting, Bannockburn, Ill., said at the National Food Distributors show. He says not all slow movers should be deleted. He cites kosher food as an example.

Wegmans plans to add two additional items -- canned beets and frozen and canned carrots -- to its growing line of canned and frozen vegetables grown under Integrated Pest Management techniques. IPM uses pest-control options that reduce the amount of pesticide applications. Wegmans states that canned and frozen beans and canned sauerkraut are planned to debut at the end of the year.

MARCH

SN runs a story about how chains are adding 4- to 12-foot refrigerated units to their dry grocery aisles so refrigerated items like pasta, pickles and salad dressings can be near their shelf-stable counterparts.

SN quotes retailers who say the Food and Drug Administration's new tobacco rules are challenging. The regulation requires retailers to request a government-issued photo identification card from shoppers under 27 years of age who wish to purchase cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products. Even if a consumer is 18 to 26 but cannot produce an ID, the retailer cannot legally sell to that consumer. Several retailers tell SN the ruling is difficult to enforce.

APRIL

Carr Gottstein Foods' private-label brand conversion is near completion. The company switches from the Food Club label to the Springfield brand.

Independent Grocers Alliance, Chicago, launches "Explore the Store," a promotion aimed at driving sales during the presummer lull. A variety of brands are promoted through temporary price reductions, in-store signs and 30-second TV ad spots.

Cub Foods, Stillwater, Minn., opens its fourth Naturally Cub store within a store. The 50-foot by 80-foot section, rectangular in shape, is signed and contains about 1,800 natural and organic SKUs. Snack foods represent one of the most unique opportunities in stores today, Peter Manos, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Giant Food said at the 60th annual Snaxpo Conference. Giant Food remerchandises its salty snack food section from end displays to in-line sets based on customer preferences.

MAY

SN reports that weekly wine sales at a Randalls Food Markets store in Houston soared 87% as a result of category management. The program boosts grocery profit dollars 57.4% per week and the average retail price per unit 12.43%.

Fleming announces plans to repackage its BestYet private-label brand, which is becoming its first-quality private-label line. The repackaging is part of a longterm strategy to consolidate all its first-quality private-label products under the BestYet banner. The consolidation does not affect the Piggly Wiggly or IGA labels.

SN reports that a shift in the national attitude toward meatless meals is responsible for increasing the number of vegetarian items in Center Store.

Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif., recalls a line of its private-label Lucerne Ghiradelli Chocolate Almond ice cream because it may contain peanuts, which are not listed as an ingredient.

JUNE

Seasonal candy sales at Jewel Food Stores soar 80% after the retailer changes the program from routine to destination. The program involves creating an in-line section for the assortment -- boosting SKUs between 20% to 40% -- depending on the season, the retailer reveals at the first annual All Candy Expo, held in Chicago. A coupon war erupts in Long Island, New York, where three chains begin offering double coupons for the first time in over 10 years. The battle is spurred by the growing presence of Edwards Super Food Stores, Carlisle, Pa., which offers everyday low pricing.

Food Emporium, Southfield, Mich., runs its annual Caribbean products promotion, adding 30% more items to the mix. Sauces, olive oil and coffee are among the items included in the campaign. Star Market Co., Cambridge, Mass., opens an Irish store-within-a-store at a unit in Dorchester, a suburb of Boston. The section, called Morrissey's of Ireland, offers more than 800 food and gift items. Penn Traffic Co., Syracuse, N.Y., makes several changes to its grocery merchandising program following a consumer survey. The changes include the introduction of unified easy-to-read shelf tags, centralized buying and endcap displays limited to sale items. SN reports that broth and bouillon are being promoted as fat replacements, and are being used in rice and mashed potatoes in place of butter and oil.

JULY

H.G. Hill Stores, Nashville, Tenn., installs 600-square-foot gourmet/international sections in two of its units. One reason for the section is to compete with Harris Teeter's first Nashville store, which has a wide selection of natural and specialty food. The departments opened in Brentwood, and Belle Meade, Tenn. A third section is planned to open in Green Hills. Palisades Market, Lake Oswego, Ore., operated by Lamb's Thriftway Markets, Wilsonville, Ore., offers 100 wine lockers located in a 60-foot by 20-foot room. The lockers allow customers to store their wine, for a charge, in a room kept at 55 degrees and a constant state of humidity.

SN runs a feature story on the status of olestra-based snacks. Included is a picture of a Cub Foods store in Castleton, Ind., whose facade was wrapped in WOW! packaging. Wow! is Plano, Texas-based Frito Lay's line of salty snacks containing the fat substitute. A Kroger Co. unit in Fishers, Ind., is also decorated.

AUGUST

A new Colalillo ShopRite in Greenwich Township, N.Y., opens a baby-sitting center, Scrunchy's Play House. The center can handle a maximum of 15 children, ranging in age from 3 to 8. The retailer also announces that it plans to open a Scrunchy's in its Flemington, N.J., store, which was in the process of being expanded by 20,000 square feet.

Wegmans expands its employee-supervised Pirates Cove child care center to five stores. The service is also renamed to W Kids.

SN reports that an increasing number of fortified and value-added products are turning up on Center Store shelves. The functional foods, or nutraceuticals, are covering categories ike tea, soup, juice, soda, candy, snacks, cereal and rice.

Harris Teeter, Charlotte, N.C., announces plans to expand its private-label cereal line by five SKUs. The cereal comes in seven varieties: toasted oats, honey and nut toasted oats, corn flakes, corn nuggets, frosted flakes, crispy rice and frosted fruit o's. Retails range from $1.39 to $1.99.

Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla., expands its natural/organic selections, and draws attention to the program with new signage, according to industry observers. Similarly, Albertson's, Boise, Idaho, dedicates a frozen-food door to natural/organic food in its more than 800 stores. The door will carry about 28 items. Albertson's also expands organic selections in its grocery aisles by bringing in products from The New Organics Co., Boston.

SEPTEMBER

Hy-Vee Food Stores, West Des Moines, Iowa, introduces a private-label low saturated fat soybean oil. LoSatSoy, which contains 1 gram of saturated fat per serving, initially was tested in seven of its Cedar Rapids stores. It is planned to be expanded to other stores. The oil retains its flavor and golden color in baking, cooking and frying.

Kroger Co.'s, Cincinnati/Dayton, Ohio, KMA, introduces a lunch buddies shelf-tag system for healthy food. The tags show where the product is located on the food guide pyramid.

SN publishes a report about the cigar boom, which led retailers like Harris Teeter, Kroger and A&P to build endcap cigar humidors and even walk-in humidors. According to the report, supermarket cigar sales grew 9.3% to $97.3 million for the 52 weeks ended March 8.

OCTOBER

The organics market is much larger than thought, a new study reveals. As much as 10% of the U.S. population can be identified as core organic consumers, according to "The Evolving Organic Marketplace," a report by Hartman and New Hope, Bellevue, Wash. Of this 10%, 2% are labeled "organic purists," or shoppers who will always buy organics and are willing to pay a premium for them.

Delchamps, Mobile, Ala., begins adding bulk candy sections to all new and remodeled stores. In one store, the section is 30 feet wide and contains candy-filled chutes, some of which reach 16 feet to the ceiling. Gardner's Markets, Miami, announces plans to expand MealTime Magic. Under the program, specialty recipes are prepared and sampled in a demonstration area. Ingredients used in each recipe are displayed near the demonstration area.

Ahold launches Lifestyle Magazine in six versions for each of its six banners. The magazine provides coupons for private-label products and promotes national-brand Center Store items.

Acme Markets, Malvern, Pa., introduces a line of cookies under the American Premiere Extravagant label. The line replaces the President's Choice line, which Acme has discontinued.

A natural/organic store within a store opens in a 65,000-square-foot Waldbaum's store in Stony Brook, N.Y. The department consists of two freestanding 18-foot-long aisles, along with four doors of frozen food and 12 feet of refrigerated products. The department, signed Natural Foods, offers snacks, health and beauty care items and frozens products.

NOVEMBER

Kroger will introduce a new private-label brand in superpremium dry dog food early next year. The label, NutriPlus TNP (Total Nutrition Program), is being manufactured by InnoPet Brands, Corp., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

G&R Felpausch, Hastings, Mich., announced plans to roll out a baby club, after a two-store test. The club gives parents a personalized commemorative book. Members also receive a $10 gift certificate for every $100 of baby-related products they buy.

DECEMBER

Two major retailers plan to implement a meal-solution center, at which ingredients are offered at a front-end kiosk with its own checkout, according to Entrepreneurial Consulting, Louisville, Ky., which created the program. Though Entrepreneurial declined to identify the retailers, it says one is located in the Southwest, while the other is in the Mid-Atlantic. The kiosk contains dry groceries, produce, frozens and refrigerated ingredients for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Kosher, natural and ethnic groceries are given more space at King Kullen's new 60,000-square-foot Commack, N.Y., store, the company's largest unit.

King Soopers runs an ad announcing that its private-label spices will be changed from the King Soopers label to the Kroger brand. The move is part of a larger effort to streamline a variety of King Soopers products to the Kroger label.