NEWARK, Del. -- While the Produce for Better Health Foundation here hopes to officially kick off its 5 a Day Regional Partnership Program this summer, officials say retail interest so far has been rather slow in coming.
"The retail participation is pretty weak right now, unfortunately," said Robb Enright, manager of public relations for the PBH. "We've been having a hard time getting most major retailers interested."
Garnering enough support to actually begin the program will take time, Enright said, especially with retailers whom he characterized as having difficulty seeing what the advantages would be if they participated.
The nonprofit organization, charged with running the industry's generic promotion campaign, is using an individualized approach to attract retailers to this latest project. The Regional Partnership Program is a new strategy to enter major media markets one at a time, and blitz those areas with full-blown media campaigns for the foundation's 5 a Day efforts. A major component is localized in-store activity.
"We're going one-on-one with them, not meeting in big groups," Enright said of the PBH's outreach to supermarkets.
That method of operation is different from when the PBH made its initial moves to get the first regional partnership under way, in Philadelphia, this past January. It held a meeting with a number of players in the Philadelphia produce industry simultaneously.
Two retailers operating in that state attended the meeting, Clemens Markets, Kulpsville, Pa., and Genuardi's Family Markets, Norristown, Pa. Both subsequently decided to participate.
To support the partnership program, Clemens plans to step up its 5 a Day promotion, said Dave Blake, produce director for the chain.
"We plan on getting much more heavily involved," Blake said. The chain is a member of 5 a Day, but its 5 a Day promotion has not been as extensive as other chains', he explained.
"I like what I have seen come out of these presentations," he said of PBH's latest strategy.
While Blake was not sure what steps Clemens will take to further promote 5 a Day, he indicated kids' tours of supermarkets as being one of the standout ideas under consideration.
PBH officials, who said they believe an obvious result of making the 5 a Day message more prominent in stores is an increase in produce sales, are now trying to attract other supermarket operators with stores in the state.
"We're still trying to get Acme," Enright said. "They're big in this market." Acme Markets, Malvern, Pa., has close to 200 stores in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland.
"Our goal is to try to bring together a group in Philadelphia to promote 5 a Day at a very intense level," said Elizabeth Pivonka, PBH president, in a statement. "We want to saturate the market in Philadelphia."
Officials at Genuardi's, the other chain to have attended that initial meeting, said they have already seen the advantages to having a more comprehensive 5 a Day program.
"Genuardi's has been a big believer in and a big supporter of the 5 a Day program since its inception," said Mike Genuardi, produce director for Genuardi's.
"We have taken advantage of almost every opportunity to promote 5 a Day and have seen significant sales increases in the produce department as a result."
One industry official involved in the PBH's activities asked area retailers to step up the tours for local school children. During the 1995 school year, more than 2.5 million children participated in 5 a Day retail market tours, according to the PBH.
"This is the kind of program that can be implemented by many retailers in the same state," said Lorelei DiSogra, director of nutrition for Dole Food Co., based in Los Angeles.
Officials with Genuardi's said they are already doing most of the things the PBH suggested to retailers during the meeting.
"We have a pretty extensive program," Genuardi said. "We didn't have to address our entire [operation] and start from scratch.
"We already do recipes, we do demoing, we do store tours, we have a 5 a Day Kids' Club Card."
One of the more significant responses to increasing the 5 a Day voice in Philadelphia was made by advocates of inner-city communities.
"There were a lot of people there who work for inner-city organizations whose initiative is to introduce more produce into the diets of the people in those communities," Genuardi said.
"It's one of the more important issues, but it presents one of the biggest challenges. I applaud their efforts."
The PBH officials said there is a great deal that can be done at the retail level, including kids' tours and greater use of the 5 a Day logo throughout stores, and Enright said the foundation will continue to solicit retailers for support.
The PBH will also attempt to reach Philadelphia consumers directly via television, print and radio advertisements, as well as public service announcements and media coverage.
"For instance, the Produce Man public service announcement is at tons of television stations across the country," Enright said. "It's at several stations in Philadelphia, but they use it at their discretion because it's a public service announcement."
Enright said his organization will try to get produce-related corporations to buy slots of time, so that the PSAs would get the same priority as regular commercials.
"It would give us some leverage," he noted. PBH officials said Philadelphia is the fourth-largest media market in the nation.
After the PBH has established itself in the market, it hopes to fund a part-time coordinator to maintain the relationships formed in this program, and to coordinate the program's activities.
According to the foundation's own strategy, what happens in Philadelphia is a crucial first step in creating similar regional partnerships in major markets.
"What we hope to do is to establish a pilot program that can be emulated elsewhere in the country," said J. Gary Lee, who was instrumental in getting the PBH officials to consider Philadelphia as the first stop.
The foundation will attempt to enter two more major market cities by the end of the year, but has not commented on which cities it is considering.
By the year 2000, PBH officials hope to have established regional partnership programs in 20 major media markets.