NORRISTOWN, Pa. -- Genuardi's Family Markets here is having a jumbo sales success with a line of new, larger muffins featured in its first-ever full-page bakery "image" ad.
The full-color ad, which ran in a Philadelphia daily newspaper, shows close-ups of giant, fluffy-looking whole muffins and also displays one cut in half.
The promotion marked the first time Genuardi's bakery department has run such an ad devoted to just the one product, said chain officials.
"This is unprecedented for our bakery. I've seen other markets do it, but this is the first time for us," said Ed McLaughlin, merchandising manager for in-store bakeries at the 27-unit chain.
The 5-ounce muffins, set at an everyday price of 99 cents each, were introduced with a buy-one, get-one-free offer that was good for a week, McLaughlin said.
The image ad was designed to give the muffins an official and exciting send-off, he said. The new products are made from a scoop-and-bake batter and baked in-store all day. They had a "soft" rollout to all Genuardi's locations in mid-September.
"I think it gives us an edge over the competition -- the ad as well as the quality of the muffin," McLaughlin said.
The ad's effectiveness has been demonstrated by terrific sales, he noted. Sales are currently running 20% above the most optimistic projections for the product. "We have one longtime bakery manager who said in 10 years she's never seen an ad do what this one's doing."
McLaughlin estimated that each day, most stores are currently selling about 100 each of the two most popular varieties, which are blueberry, closely followed by chocolate chocolate chip. The stores are also selling up to 75 a day of the other flavors, which include lemon-poppy, banana, corn, cranberry-orange and carrot-raisin.
Even though sales are jumping way over projections, the chain was able to keep pace with product demand at the stores, McLaughlin said.
"We had distribution ready and had a backup with what we needed to get in quickly to meet the demand," he explained.
The muffins are merchandised exclusively in self-service cases, alongside doughnuts and danishes. While most of the cases are upright, back-fed, doored cases, some are island bin cases. The display cases vary from store to store, McLaughlin said.
He added that the chain is currently looking at a number of lower profile self-service cases, a style that will be featured in new and remodeled units.
Aside from its desire to respond to customers' requests for better muffins, Genuardi's chose to introduce the new program with such fanfare because it wanted to draw customers to the departments' self-service cases.
"In part, it's getting a destination point into our self-service cases. We think there's opportunity in self-service," McLaughlin said. People like to choose each muffin themselves, and they don't want to stand in line, or wait at all, to be served for this type of product, he said.
Genuardi's makes sure that the self-service format does not signify a less-than fresh selection, however. Signs over the self-service cases say "fresh-made, every day." Associates have been instructed to bake the muffins throughout the day.
"We had seminars well ahead of time for our bakery and food court managers to tell them how to do the baking and how to merchandise the products," McLaughlin said. He said the prelaunch preparation of store-level personnel was more extensive than is usual when a new product is introduced.
A blitz of radio spots complemented the newspaper ad during the first week of this month. To give the program a jump start, one morning Genuardi's bakery associates delivered an assortment of the muffins to local radio stations.
As a result, the muffins drew praise on the air from talk show hosts and disc jockeys. "They loved them. They went crazy over them," McLaughlin said.
He added Genuardi's may decide to run another full-page ad or put the muffins on special again to keep the momentum going, based on the success the first ad produced.
The initial ad, which ran two weeks ago, was headlined, "Genuardi's Family Markets Introduces The Perfect Muffin." Further down on the page, it said, "At the perfect introductory price! Buy one, get one free."
Over one photo, was this line: "Save 99 cents. All varieties, 5 oz. They're moist and light!"
Underneath the photo of the cut-in-half muffin, the ad says, "We searched far and wide to find the recipe for the perfect muffin. Now we're baking these moist, mouth-watering, magnificent muffins all day long. So you get 'em fresh right from the oven! And since they're just too good to keep for yourself, for a limited time, when you buy one, you'll get another to share with a friend, FREE!"
Before introducing the 5-ounce muffins, the chain already was baking 3.5-ounce muffins in-store and merchandising them in six-packs, and will continue to do so. The six-packs of 3.5-ounce muffins retail from $2.79 to a little more than $3, depending on the flavor.
McLaughlin said he didn't believe the new giant muffins were cannibalizing sales of the six-pack muffins, although he said he had not yet collected and analyzed sales data to show it.
"I think they're two different markets. The six-packs still work because there's a consumer specifically looking for that product, Mom taking them home to the kids.
"They are a typical lunch-box treat, and I don't think the jumbo muffins lend themselves to kids. They aren't going to want this big muffin in their lunch box because they're not going to finish it," McLaughlin said.
The best-selling variety in the 3.5-ounce, six-packed muffins is blueberry, just as it is in the giant version.
"We also do well with seasonal, fall flavors like pumpkin and spice, in the six-packs," McLaughlin said.