WOOSTER, Ohio -- Buehler's has more than doubled sales of homemade deli salads using an energetic sampling and demo program featuring some of the lesser-known varieties that may be unfamiliar to customers.
The promotion has helped increase the exposure of combinations with names like French Spring Salad and Artichoke-Olive Salad, said Mary McMillen, director of consumer affairs for the 11-store chain.
"Last week, the two salads we did were a Black Bean Salad and what we call Green Slaw," McMillen told SN, noting the recipe for the latter includes cabbage, celery, green pepper, onion, pimento, sugar, vinegar, salt, lemon juice and celery seed.
"I looked at figures from two weeks ago on these items, and between that week and the week of sampling, sales slightly more than doubled." She declined to be more specific.
The program was launched in Buehler's Kitchen Korner deli/fresh meals department just in time for the all-important July Fourth holiday, as customers shopped for large family get-togethers and holiday picnics. It is scheduled to continue at least through the fall, when the menu includes seasonal preferences like one based on sauerkraut. The goal of the entire effort is to remind shoppers and store associates alike that the retailer has a menu of 40 deli salads available on a rotating basis.
"One of the reasons we're doing this is to force the issue, so to speak. We have so many salads available, but stores get into a rut of offering the Top 10 -- the macaroni salads, the potato salads and like that," McMillen said, adding that even here, the retailer offers a slightly different take on the standards, such as Redskin & Bacon Potato Salad. "[Customers] are not ordering some of the more unusual ones -- the orzo-wheat berry, for example."
Other specialty salads to be featured include Zippy Carrot Salad, a mix of carrots, green peppers, onion, Worcestershire sauce, salt, vinegar, sugar, tomato soup, mustard, mustard seed, salt, turmeric and other spices. There's also Spaghetti Salad, a cold combination of spaghetti, dressing, broccoli, tomatoes, onion, lemon juice, seasoned salt and pepper.
The chain manufactures all but a few of the highest-volume salads at a central commissary near its Wooster headquarters. The production schedule is such that the featured items are rotated into the line-up each week. This helps ensure sufficient quantities to sample and sell, McMillen said.
In stores, Buehler's takes a two-pronged approach. On Mondays through Fridays, the highlighted creations are passively set out for consumer trial. During weekends, the retailer uses a third-party firm to intercept and engage shoppers in a more personal sampling program. Both approaches are supported by printed outlines and promotional tips to be followed by both the in-store associates and third parties.
"These [materials] go to the deli people so they know about each salad," said McMillen. "They include ingredients, flavor profiles and all that. I also send them to the demo people who do our in-store work. Everyone needs to be on the same page and send the same message."
Prior to the program's launch, Kitchen Korner associates were notified that they would also have to sample the featured salads themselves and review an information sheet for product attributes. This might include the product name, the price per pound, main ingredients, serving suggestions, basic nutritional information and a descriptive taste profile. In-store announcements were also included as part of the overall promotion.