RALEIGH, N.C. -- Sweepstakes, permanent in-line displays and sampling programs are being used to give locally produced items more exposure in supermarkets across the country.
Kroger, Safeway, Piggly Wiggly and Harris Teeter are among the retailers paying extra special attention to locally produced Center Store products, including sauces, marinades, dressings and pickled goods.
Dozens of stores in the Southeast are participating in "Goodness Grows in North Carolina," a 10-year-old marketing program sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture here.
On the West Coast, a similar, though smaller, effort is under way. A marketing organization called Humboldt Harvest, based in Humboldt County, Calif., works with retailers to highlight products from local manufacturers.
The GGNC campaign promotes North Carolina products throughout the Eastern United States, with concentration in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. It currently involves 20 chains, for a total of 1,000 stores, according to Craig Dunkley, the NCDA's retail marketing specialist.
Currently, about 90% of GGNC products are direct-store-delivered, though Lowes Food Stores, Winston-Salem, N.C., is looking to bring them in through a distributor, said Dunkley.
Along with special promotions, the NCDA has also worked with retailers to develop permanent in-store programs. For instance, it assisted Kroger Co., Cincinnati, in adding 4-foot "local" sections in two of its stores in Durham and Apex, N.C., this year. The sets include a variety of sauces, dressings and marinades. Each offers about 70 stockkeeping units from 30 different manufacturers of shelf-stable products.
The sections, which are signed "A Taste From Home," are being promoted with bag stuffers, window signs, posters and samplings.
"Experience a Taste of Home+Shop Our Collection of Delicious North Carolina Specialties" is printed on the bag stuffers. The copy also describes the items as being "unique," saying they are perfect for making gift baskets.
Kroger plans to expand the program to two additional stores, in Cary and Raleigh, according to Dunkley. The retailer also may bring it to more and possibly all of the 15 stores in its North Carolina retail zone.
"Kroger has expressed a desire to carry the concept zone-wide, and possibly to other zones," said Dunkley. Kroger is also considering offering 4 feet of North Carolina packaged meats -- including franks, sausages and lunch meats -- in a refrigerator case.
The GGNC program benefits Kroger in that it enables it to get new products into the store, said Dunkley.
"We've helped give these vendors a chance to prove themselves," said Dunkley. "Kroger was willing to give these products a place on the shelf."
Last month, Kmart, Troy, Mich., which has nine Super Kmart Centers in North Carolina, became involved. The NCDA developed an exclusive promotion called "Super Kmart Carolina Pride Sweepstakes." About 12 products from 10 different North Carolina companies were involved, including Carolina Treet BBQ sauce, Cheerwine Soft Drink, Lance Snack Crackers, Radical Roots Sweetpotato Chips, Southern Biscuit Flour and Texas Pete sauces.
The sweepstakes gave consumers a chance to win two tickets to a National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing event in Charlotte and a $25 Super Kmart gift certificate. Bag stuffers described the promotion and contained an entry form.
Kmart advertised the event on the front page of its circular. "Save on These Great North Carolina Products," the copy read.
The retailer also publicized the promotion in its weekly newspaper ad, point-of-sale material and a Super Saver guide that featured special prices on 14 North Carolina items. The guide also contained entry forms for the NASCAR contest. About 36,000 copies were distributed.
The NCDA also teams with Piggly Wiggly every year for a pork and poultry promotion. This year's campaign, the Carolina Championship Challenge, tied Piggly Wiggly to a NASCAR event.
A Piggly Wiggly newspaper ad highlighted "Championship Deals" on North Carolina pork and poultry items and promoted a contest in which shoppers had a chance to win tickets to a NASCAR race and $100 in free meat from Piggly Wiggly. Shoppers could enter by filling out entry blanks in ads.
While other regions are promoting locally produced products, the NCDA's program is so aggressive it is often used as a model by other areas.
What makes the NCDA program unique is that it offers a variety of promotions in several different categories. For instance, over the summer it is running "Fresh From North Carolina Farms," a program that will involve 25 chains in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
And while the NCDA's GGNC effort serves as a prototype, other organizations are making "local" statements as well. One is Humboldt Harvest, a four-year-old nonprofit food and beverage association funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant. It currently has 78 members who make products, including fudge, sauces, jams, wine, salad dressing and salsa and perishables.
Humboldt works to promote items produced in Humboldt County, a close-knit community located 250 miles north of San Francisco. The association works with 30 supermarkets, including six from Rays, eight from Safeway and four from Food Mart, according to Carrie Paris, the organization's administrator.
Every year in October, Humboldt sponsors a "Buy Local" month, during which it teams with supermarkets to highlight Humboldt products. Though many supermarkets feature these products year-round, they give them special attention through advertising, special displays and sampling programs during "Buy Local" month.
Paris said Humboldt Harvest has not only helped get in-store placement for the items, but also has educated consumers about the importance of buying local.
"The promotions have affected sales of these products greatly. They've helped consumers understand where their money is going to," Paris said.
Now that it has made a name for local products in its own area, Humboldt Harvest is focusing on expanding distribution to other regions. To help do so, it will have a booth at the 1999 winter Fancy Food Show.