A strong emphasis on promotions was key to moving products in the in-store bakery this summer.
That is according to retailers interviewed by SN about summer sales results. Overall, summer bakery sales were anywhere from flat to a double-digit increase over last summer.
Retailers reported they were able to generate substantial increases in movement of traditional strong performers for summer, such as cream pies, cookies and sandwich buns and rolls, by stepping up promotional activity.
For some, new items or new varieties helped sales.
The vice president of bakery and deli for one of the top 10 U.S. chains said he was very pleased with bakery's performance this summer.
"Sales were up this summer vs. last summer. There were a lot of winners: upscale type breads, upscale light desserts, light whipped cream pies and low-fat and no-fat items, which continue to grow. If you have good stuff out there, customers will buy, as long as you have a realistic price. All we are suffering from is growing pains. The future for bakery is bright," he said.
The chain introduced "quite a few" low-fat and no-fat bakery products, with mostly positive results, and a few disappointments.
"We had some low-fat pound cakes from a different supplier and some muffins that were low-fat, but they just didn't make it. They tasted like straw. We had to discontinue them. But there were a lot of good low-fat and no-fat products with a good flavor that sold really well," he said. One of the chain's most successful promotions this summer focused on a light cream cake made with fresh berries, he said.
A winner for Harp's Food Stores, Springdale, Ark., was specialty hamburger buns, such as
onion-cheese and cracked wheat, according to Dan Kallesen, director of bakery.
"We did some heavier promotion of those items this summer and they were big hits. We didn't necessarily get a lot of volume, because these are not cheap items. We sold them on special at $1.29 for eight. But they got a lot of play and people talked about them," he said.
Harp's saw sales in the bakery increase about 10% over last summer, Kallesen said.
"We had good weather this summer and that really helped. When it gets too hot people don't want to eat anything heavy or too sweet. We expanded our promotions from a year ago. A year ago we ran a real hot promotion on apple pie. This year we used apple pie as the tonnage item to get customers back and they picked up other picnic items," he said.
Harp's torte cakes were also good movers, he said.
In June Harp's featured a quarter sheet cake decorated with licensed characters from Disney's "Lion King," just as the movie was opening, he said. Three-quarters of the front page of its weekly ad was allocated to the cake promotion, including a $2-off coupon. Other figures were also available.
"We preordered all the little kits of figurines but sales were so good we had to order additional kits," he said.
Minyard Food Stores, Coppell, Texas, also reported summer bakery sales about 10% higher than last summer, said George Timms, bakery director. Good picnic weather helped sales, as did heavy promotion of cookies.
"We featured about six varieties of cookies at a sale price every week. These are our own cookies, prepared from a mix and baked fresh every day in each store." Other good performers were cream cakes, pies and bagels, he said.
Cookies were also a winning category in the bakeries operated by a large Southern chain, according to the bakery director. "Cookies and rolls did real well. We added a few new varieties of cookies, including a double Dutch chocolate and an oatmeal raisin. We make them from scratch and sell them prepackaged in a 24-count container for $2.39. They are baked in each store," he said.
For the first time this summer the Southern chain tried a buy one, get one free promotion of certain bakery items such as garlic bread and lemon meringue pie.
"The lemon meringue pie was an expensive promotion, but a very good one. We had a very good response to it. We might do more of that type of promotion," the bakery director said.
Michael Knisley, director of bakery-deli at Consumers Markets, Springfield, Mo., reported flat sales for bakery this summer. "There were no big winners. We featured glazed doughnuts at $1.98 a dozen or 20 cents each and cake doughnuts at $2.69 a dozen or 25 cents each, which are very low prices. They continued strong. Our pre-made muffin program is going crazy. But our cake sales were off for all kinds of cakes. Even our wedding cake sales in June were down. They are just now beginning to pick up again," he said.
One of the problems may have been that not much variety was added to the mix during the summer, Knisley said.
One of the best weeks for bakery for the whole year was Memorial Day, when Consumers featured a cake, brownies, buns, French bread and English muffins. But a similar promotion for the Fourth of July achieved "nothing special," he said.
Turnover may have also been a factor."We have been training the new people most of the summer and are hoping for a good fall," he said.
Variety breads, such as those made with vegetables and cheese and foccaccia type bread were the winners at Farmer Jack Supermarkets, Detroit, this summer, said Carl Richardson, vice president of Hearth Oven Bakeries, the central bakery for the A&P division.
Overall bakery sales were a little better than last summer, which Richardson attributed to an improvement in the local employment picture.
George Jenkins, bakery, deli and restaurant buyer and merchandiser at Rosauers Supermarkets, Spokane, Wash., said summer bakery sales were up about 5% versus last summer.
"We did more advertising than usual of hot dog and hamburger buns, more than in past summers. We did a lot of picnic and barbecue promotions tied in with outdoor eating," he said.
Cream pies and 6-ounce muffins were big sellers, he said. The addition of self-service cases in some stores to merchandise the cream pies may have helped their sales, Jenkins said. Doughnut sales were also strong, and may have been helped by competitors who switched to a frozen doughnut product in the last year and a half. Rosauers continues to make its doughnuts from a base mix and each store bakes its own, he said.