Food Briefs : Triplets May Trigger Coupon War

Times Staff Writer

After only intermittent appearances, mostly in advertisements for independent markets, the triple coupon arrived in Southern California last week with a flourish. Alpha Beta Stores offered six triples in its weekly newspaper ads and soon thereafter Vons Grocery Co. announced that it would accept and redeem all of Alpha Beta's triple coupons.

These supermarket-issued discount slips increase the value of manufacturers' coupons by 200%. In many cases, their use, when accompanied by some of the higher-valued food product coupons, results in consumers receiving free food and household products.

The triple has been a mainstay of supermarket chains in other regions of the country, namely in the New York area. But its arrival in the highly competitive Los Angeles food retailing environment may trigger another coupon war among local markets as occurred a few months ago.

Spreading the Practice

At that time, Ralphs Grocery Co. surprised its competitors with an offer to redeem all other supermarkets' double coupons, theoretically a bonanza for cost-conscious consumers. The concept of honoring other food stores' double coupons was introduced several years ago by Hughes Markets, but attracted little attention until Ralphs joined in the offer.

However, the Ralphs move led all other supermarket chains in the area, including Vons, Alpha Beta, Safeway and Albertsons, to match the program. A snag occurred when none of the chains offered their own doubles. Thus, although every store seemed to be honoring double coupons, no coupons actually were being issued.

Eventually, all the food stores, except Vons and Hughes Markets, dropped the program. Now with Alpha Beta's barrage of triples, the supermarket ads for the next few weeks will make for interesting reading among students of retail marketing and all those shoppers with a drawer full of detergent coupons.

Oscar With a Twist--There are a number of coveted party invitations on for the evening of the Academy Awards, including the governor's ball held each year at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Those who haven't made the A-list around town might want to consider an invitation being offered by Nucleus Nuance, a Melrose Avenue restaurant and cocktail lounge.

Nuance will be sponsoring an Academy Award night on Monday and is bringing in a large-screen TV for the occasion. What's unique about this event is that all card-carrying members of the Screen Actors Guild and those with "other industry card(s)" will be offered a free drink. Furthermore, a contest to determine Oscar winners will be held, and the person with the most correct answers wins a case of wine.

A Matter of Taste--Most trendy magazines tend to issue their lists of what's "in" or "out" at the beginning of the year. The schedule was broken by Entree magazine, a trade publication for the gourmet and household products market.

This month, the magazine, which has a decided New York tilt, published a list of its picks for style in a number of categories, including food, people, colors and kitchen furnishings.

Foods that apparently make a passing grade according to Entree are catfish, martinis, pears, American caviar, smoked fish, beer, meat loaf and, believe it or not, tap water.

To Be Skipped

Those foods that the magazine suggests should not be consumed by a fashion-conscious gourmand include milk, white wine, snails, goat cheese, croissants, kiwi, fruitcake, souffles and dip.

The food preparations and restaurants that found favor with the magazine include California-style cooking, Thai and "restaurants with no names on the door." Those cooking and serving styles that received the pink slip include French, "prissy," Tex-Mex and waiters without names.

The furnishings that stylish households should be equipped with are sushi kits, real candles, pink flamingos and baskets. Not faring as well are arranged flowers, cheap wood salad bowls, cheap plastic and cheap imported cookware.

The list of people who Entree considers "in" includes Bruce Springsteen and the late James Beard.

Those on the "out" list are fewer in number and include a buyer for Bloomingdale's and a representative from Black & Decker, which may indicate that next year table saws are likely to appear on the "out" list.

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