GROCERS CHECK OUT HIGH TECH TO SURVIVE

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In the age of hypermarkets, supercenters and razor-thin profit margins, the business of supermarketing is increasingly dependent on technology for survival.

As an expected 35,000 attendees gather this week for the Food Marketing Institute's annual convention in Chicago, the issue of technology is one that will figure prominently on the agenda.

Advertising Age's Special Report on Grocery Marketing examines several technological innovations, starting with Continuous Replenishment Programs, which involve a cooperative manufacturer/retailer computer link to ship and refill orders in a relatively new and compelling way.

Using technology to build consumer sales is the focus of a new pharmacy program called Medi-Link that enables marketers to offer coupons for over-the-counter medications that are compatible with prescriptions.

Technology is also a linchpin to winning-and retaining-consumer loyalty as 60% of supermarkets prepare to have a frequent-shopper program in place by yearend. One such innovator is Ahold USA, the Dutch grocery chain that has pioneered self-scanning systems in the Netherlands and will test a similar setup in the U.S.

Ahold President-CEO Bob Zwartendijk, in a one-on-one interview, discusses this test, the influx of foreign chains buying into the U.S., and whether those chains can expand private label to become the huge phenomenon it is in Europe.

Also covered is the sudden growth spurt in premium private-label lines and the impact government-mandated nutritional labeling is having on sales of high-fat products.

Special Report starts after Page 28.

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