Antibacterial cutting boards have emerged as a hot new entry in the supermarket housewares mix, due to consumer concerns about cross-contamination of foods on kitchen work surfaces.
Chains like Dominick's Finer Foods, Northlake, Ill.; Safeway's Seattle division, Bellevue, Wash.; King Soopers, Denver; Smith's Food & Drug, Salt Lake City; and Ball's Food Stores, Kansas City, Kan., have begun displays of antibacterial cutting boards on grocery front endcaps, at in-line housewares sets and cross merchandised near refrigerated fresh meat cases.
An agent used in antibacterial cutting boards prevents the spread and growth of bacteria inside, on cut lines and on the work surface, said manufacturers.
Displays of antibacterial cutting boards are going up in May chainwide at Smith's, where managers have fielded numerous customer requests at store level.
"There's a great awareness out there about bacteria issues, E. coli and salmonella, and consumers are telling us they want these cutting boards," said Scott Stuart, Smith's category manager for housewares.
Cable home-shopping program QVC, for example, has sold 50,000 antibacterial cutting boards since introducing them last June, according to a QVC official.
Meanwhile, media reports of E. coli outbreaks in undercooked hamburgers during the past year or so have also fanned stronger interest in meat thermometers at Smith's, whose sales, Stuart said, "have spiked."
Smith's is weighing whether to cross merchandise the antibacterial cutting boards near refrigerated fresh cases, as well as cutting a two- to three-foot section at wooden cutting boards in the housewares department. The products will retail at $4.99 to $19.99. The antibacterial boards, carrying a profit margin in the 40% range at the chain, should get good customer response "as long as the consumer hype remains firm," said Stuart.
At Ball's Food Stores, antibacterial cutting boards are expected to have wide appeal.
"Customers are looking for health-conscious items in both food and nonfood, and this helps drive sales," said Charles Owen, nonfood director.
Sales of the antibacterial boards have been going well since Ball's began to merchandise them in January on a display rack at the kitchen-gadget set.
A 10-inch-by-13-inch antibacterial board has been the chain's best seller, said the retailer. Ball's Food and Drug Administration- and Environmental Protection Agency-approved polyethylene "Board of Health" cutting boards are manufactured with antibacterial properties right in the product that prevent bacteria growth, according to Herbert Garfinkle, executive vice president of board manufacturer Keilen Ltd., Billerica, Mass.
King Soopers plans to feature antibacterial cutting boards as an in-and-out promotion in the housewares department in May or June, according to a buying source who did not wish to be identified.
"We'll promote these boards based on growing consumer concerns about safe food preparation work surfaces," said the source, adding the products possibly could wind up as a permanent in-line offering if sales take off.
Increasing consumer knowledge about juices from raw meats and seafood, and food particles that can cross contaminate cutting-board surfaces has spurred Pacific Northwest retailers to offer the antibacterial cutting boards.
"Published articles about bacteria issues have made people more aware of E. coli and salmonella," said Jack Reeder, category manager for general merchandise and health and beauty care at Ray's Food Service, a nonfood supplier based in Clackamas, Ore.
Ray's supplies the antibacterial cutting boards to retailers that include some 50 to 60 of Safeway's Seattle stores. Safeway's antibacterial board assortment was placed in the stores' housewares aisles in March, with an in-line 14-inch-wide-by-21-inch-tall stair-step rack stocked with six different sizes, said Reeder.
Shopper interest in antibacterial products also extends to sink mats, dish drainers and sponges, and antibacterial soaps, prompting retailers to mount antibacterial product displays at peak traffic points with high visibility.
The Dominick's chain on April 4, for example, erected a promotional 4-foot endcap devoted to antibacterial products at the front of the housewares aisle, said a trade observer.
The assorted antibacterial EKCO GermAway cutting boards are priced at $3.99 to $14.99, and are displayed along with antibacterial sponges, wipes and chemical cleaning supplies like antibacterial Lysol spray on the endcap, said the observer.
Once the promotion has run, Dominick's is expected to create a permanent spot for the cutting boards either on the lower gondola shelf or at an in-line rack in housewares, according to the observer. The retailer had no comment.
EKCO Housewares, Franklin Park, Ill., manufactures GermAway antibacterial cutting boards in the color white, based on findings gleaned from consumer focus groups, said Carolyn LeFavour, EKCO's marketing manager for national accounts.
"Most people associate white with cleanliness and hygiene, and although in the kitchen there are other accent colors, cutting boards haven't applied to one of those," she said.