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NEW YORK – Launched last year and originally aimed at retailers and other food industry players, the "European Authentic Tastes" (EAT) campaign has now broadened its focus to include consumers, according to EAT representatives at the 51st Fancy Food Show here.
The EAT campaign is a three-year initiative designed to raise U.S. awareness of the European Union's system of high quality designated regional food products, such as Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
The new consumer component of the campaign is a crossword promotion, employing the theme of the EU's "designation of quality" system for its 25 member states. The puzzles will appear in four issues of The New York Times Magazine, which is published on Sundays. Additionally, readers can do the puzzles online at EAT's Web site, www.eu-authentic-tastes.com, where they can also enter competition to win prizes including "designation of quality" foods. The effort will also be supported by EAT ads in the Times' well-known “Dining In/Dining Out” section, which appears on Wednesdays.
The EAT campaign represents "the first step in United States to help awareness of trade and consumers in recognizing these quality seals," noted EAT project manager Ann Connors, who added that during the program's first year, "it was a real challenge to explain what we were doing." Now, one year into the initiative, however, two-thirds of the products being promoted in the United States carry the voluntary logos identifying them as EU "designation of quality" foods.
At the Fancy Food Show, EAT had a large five-part booth that featured cheeses, meats, olives, oils, and other specialties, as well as a tasting event and seminar hosted by Ari Weinzweig of Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Zingerman's Deli on Monday. The industry-oriented portion of the campaign also includes the following:
--A contest encouraging retailers to think up creative ways to raise consumer awareness of "designation of quality" foods and boost sales in the process. Entries will be judged in three categories: consumer promotion/education, staff training programs, and special events; and the grand prize will be a gourmet trip to Europe. Connors described the competition as a way for retailers to "use the products they already carry, as well as create incentive for new products." Full rules and regulations, in addition to entry forms, are scheduled to be posted on EAT's Web site this week.
--A new EU map/brochure that graphically displays the regions of origin of many "designation of quality" foods.
--Major Web site updates, among them an improved product and importer database, a signage generator, a media library containing photos and maps, and the ability to subscribe to an online quarterly newsletter.
--The "European Picnic in the Park" event in New York, scheduled for mid-September, which will feature a big selection of products in a fun, relaxed atmosphere. The venue has not yet been decided on, according to Connors, who promised plenty of "joie de vivre" at the event.
"All grocers are looking for a point of difference," noted Connors on the appeal of the initiative to retailers, adding that even at Issaquah, Wash.-based warehouse club Costco, she had recently encountered authentic Tuscan olive oil.
Acknowledging that the time was ripe for Americans to embrace such products because of their quality, higher hygienic standards, and origin controls, Connors said that "a more 'European' eating style" -- one encompassing a more considered and informed attitude, but also more sheer enjoyment in food selection, preparation, and eating -- "had been making inroads in the U.S. for a while," a trend that she is optimistic will continue.
The main goal of the EAT campaign, according to Connors, was "to expand our impact on trade and consumers, indirectly through trade or by developing programs directly for them." The program itself is "ever-growing," noted Hannu Loven, EAT representative for the EU, pointing to the recent influx of new member states to the organization, all with their own distinctive foods, who could join the campaign, as well.