When I was new to the industry about 25 years ago, I went to an association meeting in Asheville, N.C. I didn’t know a soul at the crowded cocktail party, and stood at the edge of the crowd with a mixture of shyness and dread.
Then Ilene Bloch of The Shelby Report walked over to me.
“You must be new here.”
“Well, let me introduce you around.”
And in the next hour, this competitor — who I’d never met — introduced me to everybody in the room. I exchanged business cards with people and was invited by several to join them at their tables for dinner. The next day, there were educational meetings, and I sat with newfound friends — more than a few remain friends to this day. I listened to reports about charitable work, and plans for upcoming promotions by the association.
This same basic scenario would be repeated at meetings in Indianapolis, Phoenix and at countless other gatherings until I could always spot several friends in any crowd. Then I began paying Ilene’s favor forward, introducing newcomers and even competitors around. Association
meetings have strengthened my work as a writer/editor and enriched my life with cherished friendships.
It’s easy to see why the local frozen and refrigerated food associations have always been my favorite. Members will tell you that their group’s primary goals are raising consumer awareness of the quality and convenience of frozen and refrigerated foods, and selling more product. That’s certainly true, but there’s more to it than that.
As one friend I met at an association meeting years ago told me, “At some of our events, families are involved and you see everything in a different perspective. Buyers and sellers are always in a locked battle, but when you get to know each other in a social setting and meet everyone’s kids, there’s a recalibration. You realize that we’re all human, trying to make a living in this world.”
The local groups profiled here are all part of the National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association (www.nfraweb.org), Harrisburg, Pa. They continue to thrive in the face of industry consolidation and tight budgets.
When you read about them, you’ll know why.
Eastern Frosted & Refrigerated Foods Association
Contact: Mike Ryan, executive director
Web site: www.effa.org
EFRA — the oldest frozen food association in the country — has come a long way since its first luncheon club meetings in 1937. Originally established as EFFA (Eastern Frosted Foods Association), the association expanded in 2011 to become the EFRA (Eastern Frosted & Refrigerated Foods Association).
Today, the association has 82 member companies and is on track for even more in the year ahead. Each company pays $400 in dues, which covers any and all employees who want to join. “We keep programs as cost-efficient as we can,” notes Mike Ryan, executive director.
“The consumer and the trade see and hear us loudly and clearly, and the sign of the penguin has been accepted as the symbol of quality, value and convenience in frozen and refrigerated foods,” according to the association. “As an EFRA member, you are part of a dynamic force with a common goal… use more frozen and refrigerated foods… more sales for more profits.”
In addition to retailers and manufacturers, membership includes all segments related to the industry, including, brokers, distributors, transportation/warehousing and packaging/labeling.
EFRA’s Frozen Food Festival, entitled “March is Frozen Food Month!”, has won many coveted Golden Penguin awards from the National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association over the years, recognizing excellence in marketing. Generally, about 20-25 manufacturers participate, and retailers use the EFRA logo in their ads during the month. (Since the association expanded, it now offers similar programs to the refrigerated foods community.)
The Frozen Food Festival succeeds — manufacturers and retailers, for successive years, have reported gains of up to 15% during the event. Supported by all segments of the industry, EFRA mounts this promotion effort with a fully integrated marketing campaign involving retailers, manufacturers, brokers, and media to help its member companies sell more frozen foods.
Stores are decorated for the entire month with materials featuring the logos of each participating manufacturer. Display contests motivate retail personnel to build better displays, and radio campaigns feature the theme as well as participating brands. Blue Penguin Awards bestow special recognition on those retailers, brokers, and manufacturers who perform in outstanding ways in the market area.
This year’s spring dinner event, dedicated to the distribution of the Blue Penguin Awards, included a presentation on selling frozen and refrigerated foods to Millennials. The presentation was by Edelman, the world’s largest public relations firm, which is working with the National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association to promote frozen and refrigerated foods to consumers.
Each year, EFRA organizes several other dinners and events focusing on a specific facet of the industry. All of them provide opportunities for networking with other members of the industry. For example, the “Night at the Races,” held each year at Yonkers Raceway, is an enjoyable evening, with all proceeds going to EFRA’s scholarship fund.
This fund, designed to attract new talent to the frozen and refrigerated food industry, has provided financial assistance to hundreds of deserving college students — further encouraging colleges to support training curricula related to the industry. Scholarships are also available to promising talent within the industry to help advance careers and to the children of member companies.
The association, as well as corporations and individuals interested in the future of the industry, have donated more than $800,000 in scholarships since the program’s inception in the mid-1970s. In recent years, the fund has been raising and distributing about $30,000 annually in scholarships. The EFRA Foundation is a full charity capable of accepting gifts and contributions of any size. It can also set up funds in memory of deceased members.
The association’s Winter Marketing Seminar gives members the opportunity to meet with peers, customers, friends and family in a relaxed environment conducive to building strong relationships. This annual conference is generally held at a nearby ski resort. The 2014 seminar will be Feb. 7-9 at the Villa Roma Resort in Callicoon, N.Y.
EFRA’s annual golf outing, held for more than 60 years, provides similar benefits. The popular event mixes business with fun, and has seen attendance rise over the years.
Frozen & Refrigerated Food Council of Northern California
Contact: Mary Ann Winkle
Web site: www.frozenandrefrigeratedfoods.com; also visit Facebook.
With Safeway, Lucky, FoodMaxx, Save Mart, Raley’s, Bel Air and Nob Hill Foods and other key chains actively participating, the FRFCNC gets excellent retail response during its three promotions each year. This year, for the first time, a Hispanic Heritage Month was also on the merchandising calendar.
The council’s Web site features downloadable coupons, information about store events, new products and video tips. Also on the site: news about the group’s aid to San Francisco Food Bank and Feeding America. Volunteers wear t-shirts emblazoned with “Never to cool to care.”
While social events and community service projects are a part of the council, “We’re a sales-driven association,” says the council’s Mary Ann Winkle. “It’s all about getting consumers into the stores to buy frozen and refrigerated foods.”
MARK YOUR CALENDAR!
In addition to regular meetings and promotions, there are Food Bank volunteer days on March 15 and June 7, the 29th annual golf tournament on Sept. 8 at Brookside Country Club in Stockton, Calif., the TGIF Awards Dinner on Oct. 4, and the membership annual luncheon on Dec. 3.
Frozen & Refrigerated Food Council of North Carolina
Contact: Joe D’Alberto
Web site: www.carolinacoolfoods.com
With more than 300 members, the Frozen & Refrigerated Council of North Carolina runs three major merchandising events each year: March Frozen Food Month, June Dairy Month and a holiday event — including both refrigerated and frozen foods —from mid-November through the end of December. Harris Teeter, Lowes Foods, Ingles, Food City, MDI, IGA and Galaxy Food Centers are among the retailers actively participating.
The council’s quarterly meetings feature presentations, typically by retailers offering company updates, along with the opportunity for networking and fellowship. “Members like the idea of getting together with folks who have the same common goal — to sell more product and interact with peers,” says Cathy Threatt, president, AMI, Charlotte, N.C., and a member of the FRCNC. “There’s so little face-to-face communication these days, and a great deal of value is actually placed on it.”
Several manufacturers and retailers are active with more than one local association. Among them is David Weicht, Southeast sales director of Dallas-based Daisy Brand.
Weicht is active with associations in North Florida and North Carolina, and also attends the Southeastern Frozen & Refrigerated Food Conference. The gatherings give him the opportunity to interact with customers and the manufacturer community socially, he says, adding that it improves customer relationships. Specific customer-designated events allow retailers to share their insights and future plans, providing valuable information, according to Weichert.
“Special themed events offer opportunities to generate incremental volume, utilizing promotional and advertising support vehicles,” he states. The president of his company has joined him at NFFRF dinners the past two years.
Western New York Frozen & Refrigerated Food Association
Contact: Doug Ricketts
Web site: www.nyfrfa.com
This association works closely with Wegmans Food Markets and Tops Markets to support the sale of frozen and refrigerated foods in its market area. It holds regular meetings to coordinate activities including March Frozen Food Month, June Dairy Month, a scholarship program, support of local food banks and the annual Paul Sheehan Memorial Golf Outing.
The annual Taste of Excellence allows the best customers of Wegmans and Tops to sample dairy and frozen items from supporting vendors. The event alternates between Buffalo and Rochester to reach the maximum number of consumers.
Invitations are sent to the Shoppers Club and Bonus Card members that skew higher than the norm in dairy and frozen department purchases. The event starts with a VIP session for retailer category and store personnel, then transitions into consumer sessions.
“We typically hand out samples to at least 1,600 attendees during the evening’s event,” says Doug Ricketts, the association president and director of retail sales at Upstate Niagara Coop, Buffalo, N.Y. “The supporting vendors have the opportunity to share product attributes as the demo staff presents samples to the consumers. We consistently hear comments from attendees on how much they enjoy sampling new products and will now purchase the items since they know it is available at local retailers.”
The association’s calendar winds up each year with a holiday recognition dinner honoring the work of the members in supporting and directing the group’s activities.
Frozen & Refrigerated Association of the Northeast
Contact: Donna Maglio, president
Web site: www.frane.org
The FRANE, founded in 1955, focuses on adding business value, charitable giving and educational support. In addition to organizing and supporting marketing events and promotions, it holds an annual business program in September or October. This program brings together key decision makers from member organizations, and features an educational presentation by an industry expert.
The annual Ryan Marrocco Memorial Golf Tournament has raised and awarded more than $600,000 in scholarships for deserving high school seniors and college undergraduates. Students are also teamed up with member companies for the association’s Perishables Internship Program. This program offers paid and unpaid internships in every area of the business, and is designed to further education and support career choices in the grocery industry.
FRANE works extensively with local food banks, and its signature Backpack back-to-school program for at-risk youth fights hunger and promotes healthy eating alternatives.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR!
During March 2014, FRANE Feeds the Hungry annual volunteer events at food bank locations throughout the Northeast.
May 20, annual Ryan Marrocco Memorial Golf Tournament, with all proceeds to benefit the association’s scholarship program.
August, Volunteer Appreciation Event at Tanglewood, Lenox, Mass., with all proceeds to benefit food bank partners throughout the Northeast.
Sept. 18-20, annual fall golf tournament in Newport, R.I., with all proceeds supporting food bank partners.
Sept. 19, annual member awards dinner, The Hotel Viking, Newport, R.I.
Southern California Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Council
Contact: Debra Van Der Welde, executive director
Web site: www.SCFRC.org
Founded in 1952, this association has long been active in consumer promotions each year, circulating millions of FSIs to homes during March, July and October events. The FSIs, featuring discounted participation for manufacturers, include coupons and package shots of sponsoring manufacturer brands, and directs consumers to the association Web site to enter a sweepstakes. Online coupons and retailer reprints contribute to the increased circulation and consumer awareness throughout Southern California.
Promotions for 2014 already have participation planned by retailers including Vons/Pavilions, Albertsons, Smart & Final, Unified Grocers, Gelson’s and more.
Community service is also a goal of the association. In March, members provide donated food for a breakfast they prepare and serve to the kids (aged 0-18) at Orangewood Children’s Home, Orange, Calif., a home for abused children. This year, member companies donated frozen pancakes, waffles, burritos, sausage, potatoes, toaster strudel, orange juice and more, providing a fun and healthy breakfast to about 130 children and staff. Pappy Penguin brought joy to children, gave away gifts and provided reassurance that someone cares for the well-being of the children. The kids also enjoy an ice cream social in June, as well as a barbecue and track and field games in October, all provided by the association.
An annual golf tournament raises money for a scholarship foundation, open to association members and their families. One other unusual benefit: the association’s Web site has a career center, where members can anonymously post their resumes or apply for jobs that are advertised.
Members are enthusiastic about all the benefits of the association. “SCFRC provides both professional and social occasions to further communicate, share goals and objectives, and provide networking opportunities between brokers, vendors, retailers, wholesalers and distributors within the frozen and refrigerated food industries,” says Joseph Early, Unified-SoCal frozen food category manager.
Kathy Flores, Albertsons-SoCal frozen food manager, notes that “Our participation in SCFRC has allowed us to get to know the representatives that call on us on a personal and social level which enhances the business relationship.”
MARK YOUR CALENDAR!
In addition to regular meetings and promotions, 2014 events include:
Jan. 16, Kickoff luncheon meeting for March Frozen and Refrigerated consumer promotions
March, community event, Orangewood Children’s Home.
May 5, Foundation Golf Tournament.
June 26, Board installation and Casino Night.
Sept. 25, social networking.
Nov. 19, social or luncheon.
Dec. 6, holiday event.
The Southeastern Frozen & Refrigerated Conference
More than 350 retailers, manufacturers and others tied to the industry gathered in April for the annual meeting and conference of the Southeastern Association of Frozen & Refrigerated Food Councils at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa, Hilton Head, S.C.
The event, held for nearly 30 years, includes not only social gatherings and golf, but also one-on-one meetings between retailers and manufacturers to discuss new product launches and business plans. Retailers taking part included BI-LO/Winn-Dixie, Carlie C’s IGA, Galaxy Food Centers, Harris Teeter, IGA, Ingles Supermarkets, K-VA-T Food Stores/Food City, Lowes Foods, Merchants Distributors Inc., Piggly Wiggly and W. Lee Flowers.
This year’s program featured an industry overview by Skip Shaw, president of the National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association, a keynote address by Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Burke Whitman, and a New and Emerging Trends Expo, with manufacturers making presentations about the latest trends in frozen and refrigerated foods.
A highlight of the meeting came when the association presented a $25,000 donation to the Food Industry Serving Heroes (FISH), a non-profit foundation that helps troops, veterans and their families by providing wheelchairs, service dogs, financial literacy and jobs within the industry.
“It was special for us to be in a position to do that,” said an association spokesperson, noting that donations to different charities often reach $50,000-$60,000 each year. Other charities receiving support from the association have included the Second Harvest Food Bank, the March of Dimes, Toys for Tots and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Next year, the conference will be April 23-26, again at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa. the Southeastern Association of Frozen & Refrigerated Food Councils includes councils from Central Florida, North Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina. To learn more or to register for next year’s event, go to www.carolinacoolfoods.com or contact Joe D’Alberto at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frozen & Refrigerated Foods of Central Florida
The Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Council of Central Florida has been highly effective in raising awareness of the benefits of frozen and refrigerated foods in its entire market. A frequent winner of Golden Penguin awards for excellence in merchandising, it runs several programs throughout the year at low cost for both the retailer and the manufacturer. Last October, FRFCCF ran two demos in each of 900 Publix stores.
During the March Cool Food For Families program at Publix, the association secured reduced pricing for 16 brands on ad space in 4.7 million newspaper inserts and in-store fliers. It also purchased “Fresh Ideas — Great Taste — Frozen Foods” static clings that were placed on every third door in frozen departments.
Two vendors had demos in 900 Publix stores, complete with tent cards placed at each location by FRFCCF’s demo agency. Each store had six hours of demos (three hours apiece for participating manufacturers), providing them with opportunity to distribute additional product support materials.
The promotion also included placement of brand-specific shelf signs reflecting coupon offers or reduced prices along with the customized event logo.
At the same time, the association connects with the communities it serves in many ways, such as helping with the Make-a-Wish Foundation, painting houses for the needy in the annual Paint Your Heart Out event, and providing school supplies, goodies and special events for children from low-income families.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR!
The Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Council of Central Florida will have its annual Make-A-Wish Golf Tournament next April 17-18 at the Reunion Resort, Orlando, Fla. Play begins the morning of April 18. Winn-Dixie frozen and dairy category managers will be playing, along with the president and vice president of the NFRA.
North Florida Frozen & Refrigerated Food Association
Contact: Don Taman
President: Steve Joyce,
Advantage Sales & Marketing
We asked David M. Welch, director of dairy and frozen foods for Bi-Lo Holdings, Jacksonville, Fla., to sum up his thoughts on his involvement in the North Florida Frozen & Refrigerated Food Association.
“We are around 80 members strong, made up of a great group of manufacturers, brokers, and several BILO Holdings associates who are committed to not only growing our collective frozen and dairy businesses on a local level but also helping the National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association continue its growth nationally.
“Our association is not just about the business side of our industry; we are also very passionate about giving back to society and the communities we live and work in. For several years we have partnered with some key charities, hospitals, universities and local organizations who give us a chance to help meet societal needs in unique and different ways.
“For example, multiple times per year we go to Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville (Fla.), where our association makes a financial contribution to the hospital to purchase things such as Apple iPads for patients’ use during their extended stays in the hospital. Members also visit each patient’s room where we share frozen and refrigerated snacks, toys, socks, coloring books, etc., to hopefully bring just a little joy and comfort in their time of extreme need.
“We also partner with ‘Meals on Wheels’ where our association members provide frozen and refrigerated food items to help feed the elderly of our community. In addition, we prepare and serve meals at our local ‘Ronald McDonald House’ and give frozen ice cream treats to handicapped children during a summer sports camp.
“Our most significant contribution to both our community and the frozen food industry is the donation of hundreds of thousands of dollars since our inception to offer scholarship opportunities to several colleges and universities for their business students who will potentially enter the industry as a career choice.
“Our members benefit from the social networking and interaction with like-minded members of the industry who want to sell more of their product, promote frozen and dairy food products and have a chance to give back to the community.
“The most meaningful and enjoyable event each year is our annual kick-off event held at the World Golf & Hall of Fame resort in St Augustine Fla., where we have great participation from not only our membership but executives at high levels of most manufacturer organizations. We have keynote speakers from NFRA, from BI-LO Holdings’ executive leadership team and community leaders. We also award our scholarships to the chosen recipients at this event.
“To sum it all up, the North Florida Frozen and Refrigerated Foods Association is healthy, active, and ready to see continued growth in our industry for many years to come.”
MARK YOUR CALENDAR!
March 6-7, NFFRFA’s Annual Kickoff Dinner, Doug Milne Scholarship Awards and Charity Golf Tournament, Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village, St. Augustine, Fla.
– By Warren Thayer