HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, N.J. -- Marvin Spira, executive director of Eastern Perishable Products Association for the past 10 years, will step down from the trade organization's helm early in 2001 to devote more time to his own marketing business.
This is not retirement, Spira said. Indeed, he pointed out that turning over the EPPA reins to a successor will free him to aggressively pursue work he has been involved in to some extent for years. That's bringing products to market successfully and making them profitable. Earlier, as an entrepreneur, he did it himself and more recently he has lent his expertise to others.
"I've led seminars and lectured on marketing over the years, but time constraints and conflicts of interest -- as long as I was holding this position at EPPA -- have kept me from pursuing it further," Spira said.
In his more than 35 years in the food industry, Spira has witnessed dramatic changes in the industry and in demographics, and they're changes that are reflected in EPPA's evolution during his tenure there.
"The cross marketing and cross merchandising in the supermarket that started with the home-meal replacement trend and the changing demographics with two people in a household working have changed the way we do things at EPPA. We've kept abreast of what's going and made adjustments, like adding bakery as a category, and then seafood, and most recently meat," Spira said.
He pointed out, too, that the profile of the organization itself has changed as small entrepreneurs have become fewer in number and big companies have become bigger with consolidations. The fact that people are increasingly strapped for time, too, has had its effect.
"We've made sure we have active committees to give us the input we need. Committees are the lifeblood of the organization. They come up with ideas and the direction, much of which is then implemented by the office," he said, adding that it's attention to the grass roots that has kept EPPA strong.
"The first thing I'll do when I leave EPPA as executive director is to join it as a member. I want to serve on committees and to maintain relationships I developed while I was there."
The association is seeking Spira's successor and expects to find the right person in the next 30 to 40 days, Spira said, adding that he will remain as long as necessary during the transition.
"There certainly won't be any interruption of services to EPPA members. We have a wonderful staff who will be able to keep things rolling."
From the new office of Marketing Consultants International, located at 99 Wall St. in New York City, Spira will be working with manufacturers and retailers overseas as well as in this country. His prior experience lends itself to successfully launching products in supermarkets and other venues.
Spira pointed out that many manufacturers, especially in other countries, don't realize the extent of what's involved.
"Most new products coming onto the market fail because of improper planning. For one thing, they completely underestimate the amount of financial staying power they need to get the product going."
Poor financial planning and jumping on the bandwagon with a totally "me-too" product are the two leading causes of failure, he noted.
Spira, who was trained as a chef in France, was in the restaurant business for years, and during that time, he adapted several food-service products to retail and marketed them successfully. One of his early successes was developing retail versions of Chinese entrees and appetizers from his own restaurant in Milwaukee for sale in Kohl's Supermarkets. Later, he bought Moore's Food Products, Fort Atkinson, Wis., a company that made breaded, frozen products for food service, re-built the business, and sold it to Clorox.
Then, he got involved with New York's renowned Lindy's of New York restaurant. He helped introduced Lindy's signature cheesecake -- in distinctive packaging -- to retail frozen food cases and later bought the company.