NEW ORLEANS -- A half-dozen manufacturers and grocers are testing an interactive marketing system designed to align trading partners and providers of service and information on a private electronic network. The system is called the SuperMarket Trade Network. Philips Media, Port Chester, N.Y., developed the system and unveiled a demo here last month at the Food Marketing Institute's annual MarkeTechnics convention. The trading partners testing the network are: Nestle, Glendale, Calif., and Tops Markets, Buffalo, N.Y., for the dog food category; Procter & Gamble in Sun City, Ariz., and Smith's Food & Drug Centers, Salt Lake City, in detergents; and Coca Cola Bottling, Los Angeles, and Smart & Final, Vernon, Calif., in soft drinks. According to Philips officials demonstrating the system at MarkeTechnics, these trading partners began a six-month test in November. Results so far have been excellent, they said. A national rollout is scheduled for May to coincide with the Food Marketing Institute's annual convention in Chicago, where a large exhibit is planned. Philips calls the network a "virtual marketplace" for the U.S. supermarket business. It is an on-line interactive communications system that connects all the important sectors of the industry -- suppliers, distributors, brokers, third-party information providers and trade organizations -- through one multifaceted multimedia network. Advanced communications applications include multimedia information exchange, video desktop conferencing, electronic white boards and on-line data banks. The service can interface with the software executives already use, according to Philips. "We feel that the SuperMarket Trade Network is unique as it would provide business and retailers with a prime multimedia network for communication, in turn creating more profitability and productivity throughout the food industry," said Leslie Weissman Sr., director of marketing and general manager of SMTN. The network aligns all sectors of the food industry on a private, electronic network. Philips Media said it designed the network to enhance communication and, in turn, working relationships within the food industry. By connecting all the components of the trade -- suppliers, distributors, brokers, third-party information providers and trade organizations -- on one network, the service allows users to present and share such information as marketing plans, product introduction materials and consumer analysis through integrated text, graphics, audio and video communications.