OKLAHOMA CITY -- A turnkey gourmet cinnamon roll program, developed by Fleming Cos. here, has unlocked big sales for the wholesaler's retailer members.
Cinnamon Island, the most popular of the wholesaler's collection of branded food-service concepts, is now installed in 26 stores, and doing well, Fleming officials said. They said the combination of quality and the brand name is the key to sales success and retailers who took on the program agreed.
"A cinnamon roll is a cinnamon roll is a cinnamon roll," said Ray Killgore, owner of Ray's SuperThrift, a single-unit independent in Edmond, a suburb of Oklahoma City, "but people remember the name 'Cinnamon Island.' A brand name attracts them, and in this case, they relate it to quality once they've tasted the product."
As reported in SN, Cinnamon Island is one of five licensed Chef's Cupboard concepts the wholesaler introduced last year to help its retailer-members establish brand identity in their bakery and food-service departments. The other concepts are Baker's Blvd., a limited-assortment bakery concept designed for retailers looking to start up a fresh in-store bakery; Chicken Store & More, featuring chicken meals; S'Italian, with a roster of Italian specialties; and Captain Submans Soup 'R Sandwich Shop, featuring freshly made sandwiches and salads.
Fleming developed the programs, which feature a restaurant-type flair, as tools to get some of the dollars back into retail that are being spent in food-service outlets, said Bob Nectow, manager of fresh-food concepts at Fleming.
"We've certainly done this in response to the shift in spending [that has seen consumers spending more of their dollars in the traditional food-service industry]. It brings more value to our [retailer] customers. Specifically, it builds brand identity," Nectow said.
For Jim Bauersfeld, owner of J.M. Bauersfeld's, a four-unit independent retailer in Topeka, Kan., the brand identity of Cinnamon Island is working.
"We're very happy with it. It [the brand name] gives us an identification. Cinnamon Island makes consumers think of us," Bauersfeld said. He said he believes the name attracts new customers and the quality of the product itself keeps them coming back.
He's selling up to 2,000 Cinnamon Island cinnamon rolls a week in the one store that has the program.
The Cinnamon Island counter at J.M. Bauersfeld is positioned at the front of the 55,000-square-foot store's fresh power aisle, in line with the bakery and directly across the aisle from a hearth bread kiosk. In that location, the sight of the brand name and the aroma of the fresh-baked rolls grab impulse sales, Bauersfeld said.
At Ray's SuperThrift, the Cinnamon Island counter is also in line with the in-store bakery, but it's situated in the last corner of the traffic pattern in the 32,000-square-foot store.
Total bakery sales are up by 0.5% since he added Cinnamon Island in March and the program is the major factor behind that sales boost, Killgore said.
Even though summer may not appear to be the ideal season to build sales of rich, iced, gourmet cinnamon rolls, hot weather hasn't slowed sales down a bit at his store, Killgore said.
"I was so excited about putting Cinnamon Island in, I didn't even think about the season, but now I don't think it's a seasonal product," Killgore said.
After the initial hoopla that launched the program, sales dropped a little as expected, "but then I began to see a gain each week," Killgore added. And the gains have continued, he said.
In addition to the traditional cinnamon roll with icing, the Cinnamon Island menu features flavors including cherry sour cream and caramel nut.
Cherry sour cream is the hands-down favorite variety of Cinnamon Island items at Ray's SuperThrift. Caramel nut comes in second. Those are the front-runners both in the jumbo size, which retails in a four-pack for $3.99, and in the mini size, which retails in a nine-count pack for the same price.
While Ray's SuperThrift does a "tremendous business in the morning," sales of Cinnamon Island products in the evening may even have an edge over morning sales, Killgore said. "People buy them for the next morning," he explained. "We've sold eight- and 10-packs of the nine-count minis at a time for breakfasts or brunch parties."
At J.M. Bauersfeld, heaviest sales are rung up on weekend mornings. Jim Bauersfeld theorizes that people are more apt to buy treats on the weekend and that probably includes those who mind their calories during the week.
"Our Cinnamon Island sales are strong. Customers may be eating bagels all week, but they'll treat themselves on Sunday. We're happy with what Cinnamon Island is doing for us," Bauersfeld said.
"It's all part of the fresh aisle. It's good to have these things together, like the hearth breads, and we've just started making our own bagels," he added.
Those fresh bakery programs, just inside the entrance at the J.M. Bauersfeld store, head up a fresh-food court.
The location of Cinnamon Island inside a store and its relationship to other perishables departments is a key component for success, according to Fleming's Nectow.
"A major factor is that we need to market it as a freshly prepared product that's ready to eat. We have competition in the store so it needs to be positioned as a fresh department," he said.
"This is a product you don't just package and put out. Baking and sampling throughout the day is part of it," he said. And regardless of where in the store the concept is placed, food-service-type promotion is a must, he added.
Having front-end associates wear Cinnamon Island hats and buttons and using a Fleming-developed Cinnamon Island radio commercial over the public address system are techniques that retailers are using to grab customers' attention, Nectow said.
"The ideal is to have the concept up front, but there are ways to get customers to the back corner [if that's where Cinnamon Island is situated], too," he said. He explained that the merchandising counter is a self-contained module that can be moved around.
"We have some retailers who roll it right up front on Sunday mornings between 8 and 12," Nectow added.