Baking is becoming more popular due to the increasing desire of aging baby boomers to eat healthier by using fresh ingredients, a lifestyle change that is boosting sales of many products in supermarkets, including those stocked in the baking aisle, according to retailers.
"We put all of the things you would use to make desserts really taste good on sale before the holidays," said Becca Anderson, spokeswoman for Bashas' Markets, which has 91 stores and is headquartered in Chandler, Ariz. "That includes sprinkles, icings, nuts, chocolate and butterscotch chips, and raisins, as well as yeasts and stuffings, and cake, brownie and cookie mixes."
These are used as an enticement, because people also have to buy the bulkier, staple items, such as flour, baking soda and sugar, that stay on the main shelves. The stores promote baking items because Bashas' is located in an area with a large percentage of senior citizens who enjoy and have the time for baking, she said.
"This is traditional, but this year we did it a little different because we introduced our frequent-shopper card last year, so we tie sales into the use of the card," Anderson said.
Bashas' also does a full-page advertisement on baking items that is part of the insert for newspapers during the holiday season. The sale items are put on a free-floating, movable display that is located near the front entrance or near the milk coolers to attract customers' attention. The profit margin a supermarket realizes on baking items is made, to a large extent, during the winter holiday season because people do not bake as much during other times of the year, she added.
John Corcoran, category manager for Big Y Foods, Springfield, Mass., agreed with the Bashas' strategy, but said his store includes some staples also.
"We put flour, cake mixes, frosting, sugar, baking powder, spices and other baking items on sale in November and December," Corcoran said. "We don't use coupons but we have discounts for people using the Express Savings Club electronic discount card."
The store also does specials linking the sale of typical holiday meal items from meat or produce, such as a turkey or ham, with a free offer on a dessert item, he said.
The holiday baking spirit is reflected in sales statistics for all types of baking ingredients. Sales of mixes for everything from gingerbread to cookies, chocolate chips, icings and coconut, to the makings for fruit cakes, skyrocket during November and December. Sales that jump from three to six times the average for other months are common, according to figures compiled by ACNielsen, a market research, information and analysis firm located in Schaumburg, Ill.
For example, sales of glazed fruits jump by three times the average in November and six times the average in December, while graham cracker and dessert crumbs jump three times the norm in December, and sales of both brown sugar and powdered sugar more than double in December, according to ACNielsen.
"There is an increase in sales at holiday times," confirmed Ramona Bennett, division marketing manager for Cargill Salts, Minneapolis, which markets a variety of table and specialized salts. "People are looking for more quality food and are doing more of their own baking. People are trying to get back to the basics."
Nestle Toll House, Solon, Ohio, is banking on people's desire to do their own baking by marketing a new product, ready-to-bake chocolate-chip cookie and brownie bars that can be broken apart by hand and popped in the oven for a home-baked taste in an ultra-convenient form, said Loretta Ivany of Nestle. The product was debuted in supermarkets in September in time for the holiday season, she said.
Charles Jones, senior buyer for Scolari's Food & Drug, Sparks, Nev., which has 19 stores in Nevada and California, said the company works with its retailers to promote holiday cooking and baking starting Nov. 1.
"In a large store, which is about 45,000 square feet, we will provide displays during the last week in October that can be 20 feet long by 10 feet to 15 feet wide, where we display holiday items. That can amount to 500 or 600 cases of products," Jones said. "Included in that display will be anything that fits a holiday baking theme, such as pumpkin pie mix, evaporated milk, cranberry sauce, cake mixes, turkey bags and canned yams, anything that is nonperishable."
Smaller stores, those with 25,000 to 30,000 square feet of space, will do the same display on a smaller scale.
"Some local managers do this in conjunction with a local sporting event that might make the display even bigger," he added. "They use anything related to holidays or the fall season, then they change the display, adding and subtracting products, as the season progresses. The displays are in the front of the store so shoppers do not have to search for items. The displays are decorated with holiday trim and danglers. Pumpkins are often included, but more as decoration than to sell."
Autry Greer & Sons, which has 37 stores in Alabama, Mississippi and Florida and headquarters in Prichard, Ala., locates two movable displays near each other, one with baking items and the other with prebaked cookies, cakes and pies.
"We promote with special prices, advertising, in-store displays for all of the items that go into holiday baking," said James Drinkard, bakery buyer and director of deli. "We will have two or three 8-foot displays with brown sugar, raisins, coconut and things like citron for fruitcakes and it will be up front in a store whenever possible." Also located nearby are prebaked cakes, cookies and pies. Any of the categories can be tied to sales of turkeys or other holiday items at different times during the two-month holiday season, he said.
Other supermarkets also use displays with baking ingredients alongside prebaked merchandise, which is often the item that draws customers into the store, according to several managers.
"It took us four years to find a supplier who could make an apple pie that we were happy with," said Stephen Bordonaro, bakery sales manager for Big Y Foods. "But we now feature a 12-inch, world-class pie made with 4 pounds of apples that we have near massive displays of cookie platters, which has added tremendous amounts to sales."
Country Mart, with seven stores in Kansas and Oklahoma, uses a similar strategy, according to Craig Dickey, vice president of perishables. The store raffles off 250-pound pumpkins and has a cake walk contest as an enticement to get people into the store. Large displays of breads, cupcakes and cookies are used to generate interest in holiday sales.
"I'm considering using the same techniques we used for years in the meat department and having truckload sales and linking sales for breads and cakes with cheeses and dairy products and with meats," Dickey said.
Bernie Rogan, spokesman for Shaw's Supermarkets, East Bridgewater, Mass., agreed with the cross merchandising technique using prebaked items to draw people into the store to sell baking ingredients, as well as items in other holiday-related categories.
"We have a full-service bakery in all our stores that is constantly changing and is a driving force in our stores," Rogan said. "The displays are dead on in the new stores as soon as you enter, so it is visible from the minute you walk in.
"We always have a muffin of the month, a pie of the month, and a cake of the month along with a theme in the bakery. We will have a lot of Thanksgiving, Christmas and millennium items that will be a driving force to get people into our stores.
"Then we have our own line of icings and cakes that will be displayed because New England people still do a lot of their own baking," Rogan added.