ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Retailers are counting on Mother Earth's Organic Festival, the annual supermarket organic food promotion linked to Earth Day, April 22, to build excitement throughout the store as it helps build sales and introduce consumers to organic products, one of the fastest-growing segments in grocery.
The promotion, sponsored by the Organic Alliance here and the Soy Foods Council, Urbandale, Iowa, kicks off April 16 and runs through the end of the month. "We have 560 stores in the program this year, and 13 chains," said Angela Sterns, executive director of the Organic Alliance.
"We're excited about it," said Tom Turowski, director of specialty merchandising for Pick 'N Save, Milwaukee, a first-time participant with 40 stores.
"Within a few months, we are looking to probably double our sales in natural foods. I think this is an excellent way to start this off," said Turowski. "More people are looking for substitutes, and soy is one. At Pick 'N Save, we have in-store fliers to promote soy. We will have large soy nuts displays."
Kathy Armstrong, natural foods merchandiser for Rainbow Foods, Minneapolis, will feature organic items in the Sunday ads during all of April, plus a special promotional ad on Apr. 15 on organic foods, she said. "We will have the displays up, the shelf talkers and the signs," she said.
In Center Store, Pick 'N Save stores have 1,200 to 1,500 stockkeeping units of organic products, including frozens, Turowski said. By the time store workers finish hanging the special signs and banners, and building displays, the stores really will look like a festival is happening. "We have a lot of educational materials that we will be handing out, and a lot of demos planned," he added.
With the recent passage of the federal organic standards, the Organic Alliance is more focused than ever on getting the organic message to consumers, Sterns said. One way to do that, new this year, is through a videotape called "Organic Adventures," aimed at children ages 9 to 12.
Also new this year is an enhanced signage program, with two-sided 3x5 inch shelf talkers that are customized to describe three features or benefits of the product, and bearing the participating manufacturer's logo as well as the Mother Earth four-color festival logo. The number of stores using the Festival has grown from last year's 482, but last year's had more chains, 15.
The number of manufacturers has dropped to 18 this year from 33 last year, mainly due to reallocation of budgets and restructuring, according to Glory Ramsey, marketing director for the Organic Alliance.
The consumer education video has gone out to all the stores participating. A teenage host named Brittany, along with a ladybug named Lily, talk about what organically grown means, by talking to a farmer and then visiting a grocery store to pick out organic food, including chips and pizza from Center Store. The video can be used in conjunction with a children's workbook that came out last year.
Chains participating this year are Bi-Lo, Mauldin, S.C.; Copps Food Corp., Stevens Point, Wis.; Dominick's Finer Foods, Chicago; Food Circus Supermarkets/Super Food Town, Ocean City, N.J.; Fred Meyer, Portland, Ore.; Giant Eagle, Pittsburgh; Heinen's, Warrensville Heights, Ohio; King Sooper's, Denver; Kowalski's Market, Woodbury, Minn.; Pick 'N Save, Wauwatosa, Wis.; Pratt's Food & Health Stores, Shawnee, Okla.; Rainbow Food Stores, Minneapolis; and Wegmans Food Markets, Rochester, N.Y.