ORLANDO, Fla. -- A panel of seven area consumers said they'd likely purchase more from their supermarket's in-store bakery if marketing tools like signal lights or announcements alerted them to freshly made items.
Speaking at the annual convention of the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association, the group said such outreach would trigger a greater impulse to buy, whereas they are more prone currently to make a purchase only if they happen to be in the bakery and see something they like.
Mona Doyle, who convened the panel as president of The Consumer Network, Philadelphia, asked if shopping the ISB is a different experience than looking for items in produce or the meat department. One panelist responded the ISB is "the guilty-pleasure section" of the store. Another said that while bread is a staple purchase for her, "what I buy [in the bakery] is not always what I need."
The aroma of fresh-baked goods is a powerful motivator, and all the shoppers agreed that they are enticed to investigate pleasant smells coming from the direction of the bakery.
"You're six aisles away and you sniff something in the air, and you just got to go over there," said one.
"You're shopping for other items, but the smell draws you in and you have to get some," said another.
A third panelist said there's a strong appeal for a doughnut chain that uses an illuminated "Hot Now" sign to alert passersby that fresh doughnuts just out of the fryer are available.
"When it's flashing, I'm more likely to swerve on in there than when it's not flashing. If the light was off, I might very well have just passed it by, but when that light is on, I'm just feeling very lucky," she said.
When asked if any of her supermarkets used a similar technique in the ISB, she said no, but "if they did, I would probably buy a lot more."
Signals like lights and announcements promote a mentality that, "I don't really need that, but..," added another shopper in the group. A majority also said that price is not as important as freshness in shopping the bakery section.
"Fresh is always better than prepackaged," said one woman. "I think it really depends on the product," said another. "If I get sliced bread, I'm going to get packaged. But if I'm getting something like dinner rolls I want to use that day, I like them fresh."
Frozen product got a vote of confidence from one male panelist, who said the improved quality and convenience mean he doesn't have to make homemade batter anymore.
Yet another male shopper said he hasn't found such quality when it comes to supermarkets' artisan breads. Instead, he patronizes a chain of stores that specializes in fresh-baked goods.
"It's warm, made right in front of you," he told the audience. "Whereas you go to a supermarket, and everything is in a plastic bag and it's all wrapped up and ready to go with a price tag on it. It just doesn't seem as fresh as when they take it right off the shelf of [the outside bakery]."
A female shopper agreed, saying, "I would not go to [an outside bakery] for stuff for the family, but for my clients I would go, mainly because of the packaging," she said. "It's really attractive, and it's got the name of the brand and people see it and think, 'Oooh, they took a special trip to get that bread."'
Research by the Consumer Network shows a preference for brands in the ISB, and Doyle noted the success of such concepts as Krispy Kreme doughnuts that can lure shoppers predisposed to buy. By comparison, "no-brand bakeries" were cited for uncertain freshness, inconsistent quality, little product information and a lack of commitment.
Service is key in building sales, and all the panelists said they have never become a regular customer of any store bakery that does not have a service person present during peak hours.
"I don't necessarily think I need assistance, but mentally it makes me think [the product is] fresher when there's someone standing there, like they're baking it back there," said one woman.
Surprisingly, doughnuts elicited several passionate responses. One woman declared, "You don't buy doughnuts in a grocery store."