PHILADELPHIA -- New ways to merchandise bagels and crusty breads, and new ideas for cakes grabbed the attention of retailers at the Laurel, Md.-based Retailer's Bakery Association convention and show here last month.
Supermarket bakery executives who attended in order to learn about new trends and ideas, equipment and fixtures told SN they were not disappointed. "I came away with a lot of new ideas on how to merchandise bagels and crusty breads. There were attractive branded bagel franchises available, and ways to retrofit a store so you can boil bagels in view of customers. Some ideas on how to create signature or private-label breads interested me," said a bakery executive at a large Northeast supermarket chain, who asked not to be named.
"The manufacturing community is obviously seeing an opportunity to make the most of these two products that are going so strong, and that excites us because they're two avenues we're looking to pursue," he added.
A particular piece of equipment caught the attention of Chuck Zirilli, director of deli-bakery marketing for Super Fresh, Florence, N.J., the 69-unit division of A&P, Montvale, N.J.
"We saw a new European convection deck oven that we may test in one of our stores. It's supposed to cut off a third of baking time, but what impressed me even more is that it maintains its temperature
when you open the oven door to check product. Fans keep the heat from escaping," Zirilli said.
Some retailers also cited the RBA seminars as particularly valuable to them.
"The seminar on motivating today's youth is probably the best seminar I've attended anywhere. The woman who spoke is really in tune with the young people today. And her advice was practical," said Darrell Bruff, bakery and deli director for E.W. James & Sons, a 16-unit chain based in Union City, Tenn.
The seminar on motivating youth was also valuable to Dave Landis, a partner in Landis Supermarkets, an independent in Telford, Pa., affiliated with Fleming Cos.
"The gist of it was to be patient with young people and to not expect too much too soon. But the upside is that if you keep at it, you'll get results," Landis said.
New ways to use European slant tables to merchandise products, new and practical bread-baking equipment such as a mesh baguette pan, upscale cakes and ideas that can easily be put to work were other standouts, retailers told SN.
"Cutting a double-layer cake so it's long and narrow and decorating that, for example, was new to me. I hadn't thought of that, but it's easy and it gives you a different looking cake," said Bruff.
Others commented on the prevalence of cakes decorated with fresh fruit and on the new top-quality, parbaked breads available.
Here is some more of what the bakery executives had to say:
director, deli-bakery marketing
Besides the convection deck oven, which really impressed us, we saw new cake-decorating tools such as a new type of gun. Manufacturers were also showing new cake lines -- a lot of glazed fruit cakes and fancy types such as seven-layer. Some were prefinished, but we were interested in one that is shipped in components -- the layers, the icing and filling. You do the finishing in-store.
I thought it was an excellent show. It was well-organized so it was easy to see what we wanted to see. It being held in Philadelphia gave me a good opportunity to take a lot of our people there. I took all four of our operating specialists and 15 of our bakery managers.
large Northeast chain
I went there looking for ideas more than for equipment or any particular items. I wasn't let down. I didn't see any new products that would make me drop everything and say, "We have to have that," but we got some great ideas that'll help us micromarket, I think.
Manufacturers and the vendors are getting into new merchandising ideas like the use of the Food Guide Pyramid. There were good ideas, too, about how to call attention to your crusty breads. There's a lot more to do than just setting them up there on the shelf.
West Point Market
We didn't go looking for anything in particular, but we saw a great parbaked artisan, hearth-style bread. The quality was excellent. Overall, what impressed me was that there were so many new and better quality products, like preportioned cookies that were very upscale.
We were impressed with some items that can give a common product a different look. For example, different shaped cake pans. There was one that gives you a tall, straight-sided cupcake. And one item we'll buy is a flexible mesh baguette pan. We had been looking for something like that because it allows the bread to rise more. We found a similar product last year through a food-service supplier but it costs about three times as much as this one.
It was obvious that equipment is becoming more sophisticated. And there are more options coming from manufacturers.
The seminars were good, particularly the one on the future of the in-store bakery. We're becoming more computerized so we brought back a sample diskette of RBA's pricing matrix. It looks easy to use.
I always find at a show that the new ideas and the opportunities to talk to other retailers are valuable. You sometimes see things from a different perspective and it helps to solve a problem.
I learned in the seminars that I'm doing what I should be doing by putting emphasis on quality rather than on price. That's what RBA's consumer survey showed that customers want. That session was particularly interesting to me.
On the show floor, it was obvious that bagels and crusty breads are here to stay. We saw excellent ways to display bagels and we may buy a fixture we saw that combines acrylic, lidded bins and baskets. We had previously displayed bagels in baskets on shelves behind glass doors. Then recently we improvised with a bulk candy bin that we made some changes to in order to display bagels in it, but these acrylic bins would be perfect. There are four or five bins on each side and baskets at the ends that we could use for French bread displays.
I noticed that there were upgrades in equipment and improved products shown by exhibitors. For example, great parbaked bread lines, and even though we don't use thaw-and-sell items, I saw a lot of top-quality items in that category, too. But probably the biggest benefit of this show and others, too, is that it motivates your people. Since it was right here, 12 of us went. It's good to see people coming back enthusiastic with maybe a new way of looking at things.
We saw a lot of parbaked, hearty breads that were greatly improved in quality. Manufacturers have been upgrading them over the last few years. We brought new merchandising ideas back with us, such as new ways to place products on slant tables. Darrell Bruff bakery director
E.W. James & Sons
Union City, Tenn.
We found a great doughnut glaze that lasts. The doughnuts still look great the next day.
There were also new ideas with cakes that caught my attention. In one case, the manufacturer had five level shelves attached to a wood slant table with rows of small cakes. That was a beautiful display.