ARCADIA, Calif. -- How can the labor-intensive bakery and deli departments work toward better profits? How can the new federally mandated nutrition labels help bakery sales? How can products be better formulated and merchandised to grab sales?
These are key questions for in-store bakeries and delis this year, and the annual bakery-deli conference of the Retail Bakers of America has an agenda designed to try and answer them.
Skip Scheidt, chairman of this year's conference committee, said the group has worked to create a program that will provide for more interactive discussions than in past years, and that will focus on how to make an operation a success. Scheidt, vice president of hot bakery for Vons Cos. here, said this conference, slated for April 8 and 9 in St. Louis, which immediately precedes the trade group's convention and exhibition, provides an opportunity to go beyond the "beautiful picture" of successful programs and into the nuts and bolts behind them.
"We want to make sure people can take something away with them," he said. Peter Houstle, executive vice president of RBA, will present a "nuts and bolts" session on the new labeling law, which goes into effect May 8. Jeanine Sherry, president of New Wellness, a nutrition consulting firm, will follow with a session on marketing nutrition. "Now that we have the labeling law," Scheidt said, "how do we use it to our advantage? That's what Sherry will focus on." There also will be sessions on product merchandising in the service case and on how to create signature products. Brian Salus, formerly with Ukrop's Super Markets, Richmond, Va., and now a food industry consultant, will present a roundup of showcase displays from around the country. Howard Solganik, president of the consulting firm Solganik & Associates, Dayton, Ohio, will talk on how to bolster a store's image with signature products.
To help operators become more profitable through better marketing, the conference has two sessions related to focus groups. One is a general session on how to put together and run such a group, and the other is a session with an actual focus group so that attendees can see the process in action, Scheidt said.
On the first afternoon of the conference, there also will be retailer-only roundtable discussions, during which several topics will be on the agenda: signature products, profitability, product mix, decorated cakes and wedding cakes, thaw-and-sell products vs. on-site production, production cost-cutting, safety ideas, product sourcing and sanitation.
In all the sessions this year, both bakery and deli issues will be covered, rather than separating the topics into different sessions, Scheidt said. "We wanted to make sure each of the presentations talked about bakery and deli," he said. This year's conference also includes the Leading Edge Awards for excellence in bakery-deli merchandising, a program in its second year, but with a new name. Last year, the awards were called RBA Pacesetter Awards. The name was changed, Scheidt said, because another food trade group uses the Pacesetter name and requested that RBA come up with another.
The awards, which are co-sponsored by SN and RBA, will be given to two leading supermarket bakery operations, and two leading deli operations. "Awards like this can stir a lot of excitement and creativity," Scheidt said. "That's what we're trying to create."