WHAT ECR REALLY MEANS

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- It's time to talk specifics about how Efficient Consumer Response will affect frozen food distribution, said Nevin Montgomery, president of the National Frozen Food Association here."You hear a lot about ECR, and I think everyone's familiar with it, but there is nothing really available that hones right in on how it's going to affect the frozen food department," Montgomery said

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- It's time to talk specifics about how Efficient Consumer Response will affect frozen food distribution, said Nevin Montgomery, president of the National Frozen Food Association here.

"You hear a lot about ECR, and I think everyone's familiar with it, but there is nothing really available that hones right in on how it's going to affect the frozen food department," Montgomery said of the industrywide drive to streamline distribution.

"We're trying to work with some of the consulting firms and get some people that could really hone in more on how it will affect frozen foods," he said, referring to a retail and food-service executive conference NFFA is planning for March.

Such a presentation, Montgomery said, would not only give industry personnel a chance to learn more about ECR, it would help foster cooperation from all sides of the industry. NFFA members representing all aspects of the industry have shown a willingness to work together to accomplish ECR objectives, he added.

"That's one of the advantages we have as an all-industry association," he said. "We hear the input from all sides. Every segment of the industry can talk about the pluses and minuses of various new techniques that come into the industry. You see a lot of working together to make things more efficient. I find the industry is working together very well. Basically they have to. It's to everyone's benefit."

All these efforts to simplify the distribution process will no doubt bring about changes on the store level, Montgomery said.

"I think you'll see a lot of things tied in to ECR, with more efficiencies built into the system, from inventory control to the just-in-time deliveries. You're going to have to have much better case management to make sure those items that are the leaders in the category are kept in stock. Everyone is going to have to be sharper. The brokers will play a vital role in that area to make sure inventories are replenished as needed."

Montgomery said the improving distribution methods, as well as increasing consumer awareness of frozen foods, bode well for frozen foods. Both those trends go hand in hand with NFFA's efforts, as evidenced by the mission statement approved this year by the group's board of directors.

"Basically, NFFA's mission is to promote the sale and consumption of frozen food," Montgomery said of the mission statement. "We do that through education, training, research, sales planning and providing a forum for industry dialogue, such as conventions and seminars." Although the statement is new, the mission has been the same for years, he added. NFFA's best-known effort to promote frozen foods is its annual March Is National Frozen Food Month promotion, which will soon become part of a one-two punch. October 1995 will mark the debut of Cool Foods, a program designed to educate children about the benefits and uses of frozen foods.

While National Frozen Food Month -- complete with speedskater Bonnie Blair as spokeswoman for the sweepstakes -- will be essentially the same as in 1994, Cool Foods will be something new. "The same participants in the sweepstakes will be participating in a program with Scholastic magazine that will go into the school and reach children and their parents as well," Montgomery said.