PHILADELPHIA -- Fresh hams and pizza in the bakery?
Supermarket strategist Gene Hoffman thinks those and other unconventional products could very well provide the saving grace for in-store bakeries in the future.
Speaking at the Laurel, Md.-based Retailer's Bakery Association annual convention here, Hoffman said that the current cutthroat climate of business demands that in-store bakery executives view everyone from Pizza Hut to their own store delis as competition.
And that means breaking free of a dependence on the grain industry that he said constricts in-store assortments and, instead, thinking "breakthrough thoughts" about what the in-store bakery can do.
Hoffman, a former president of Supervalu and Kroger Co., and now president of Corporate Strategies International, Wayzata, Minn., asked, "What about doing more and different food preparation in your bakeries?" Alluding to the department's traditional adherence to grain-based goods, he asked, "If God said, 'There will be no more flour available,' what would you do?"
Hoffman was even so politically incorrect as to suggest the bakery not be called an "in-store bakery" at all, but rather a baked foods department.
"Does the name itself limit your vision to conventional bakery items? I hope not, but I think it does. Your name can cause you to be extensions of the grain business with traditional products only, and constrain your creative efforts accordingly. Is your deli so
constricted by what they can make and merchandise? Is freshly baked ham a deli or baked item?"
He exhorted the supermarket bakery executives in attendance to get in step with the trends, such as meal solutions, that are blurring the lines between departments in the store and between supermarkets and other operators.
"What constitutes the future growth of your business? That is the amount of product that people put in their stomachs.
"Pizza is a great growing competitor for you today. But what is it? It is dough made from flour that you bake," Hoffman noted. Bakery executives are too wary of leaving their product comfort levels to think about using items like pizza to reap better profits, he said.
"If I were still at Kroger, I would change the name of the in-store bakery to In-Store Baked Foods," he said. "Start thinking about where your future products are. There are people outside of this room and this convention who are trying to put you out of your business."
He suggested that bakery directors convert their "corporate mindset into that of an innovative entrepreneur" and think in more conceptual terms.