There was a lot of plain talk -- and useful talk -- about in-store bakeries at last week's convention of the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association in Orlando, Fla.
The talk came from a panel of central Florida supermarket shoppers seated at a meeting session by Mona Boyle, the well-known consumer researcher and activist. Mona quizzed participants about their bakery-shopping preferences, and each was encouraged to say what seemed good, or not, about the supermarket bakery experience. Notions that could lead to increased bakery sales emerged. You'll see about that by looking at the news article on Page 23. Meanwhile, here's a look at a trio of the more provocative prescriptions:
Go Upmarket: One of the participants betrayed the fact that supermarket bakeries aren't perceived as being sufficiently upscale, or perhaps of sufficient quality, in certain instances. A businesswoman on the panel said she often buys supermarket doughnuts for home use since they present a utility solution.
But when entertaining clients, she sources from a retail bakery so she can display the store's brand and packaging to clients. This presents an opportunity gap for supermarkets. Why not establish a separate, higher-quality and higher-priced line using a different name and packaging?
Hot Oven: One panelist said one of the more exciting shopping experiences occurs when she is among the first to buy fresh-baked product straight from the oven. She told of a doughnut chain that uses a "Hot Now" sign that flashes outside the store to alert those going by that the oven has just been emptied. "When I see that the light is on, I'm just feeling very lucky, and I swerve in," she said.
So, why not make in-store announcements or activate a flashing light when baked goods are about to be plucked from the oven?
Seat Them: In much the same vein, other panelists said they not only like to pick up freshly baked goods, but that they are prone to eat some right on the spot. Others said they would be more likely to pause in the bakery if there were a seating area, and if coffee were provided. This leads in the direction many supermarkets have already gone: To offer seating, which formally encourages lingering in the bakery department.
Also, legitimizing in-store consumption of baked goods might discourage the shrink-by-grazing phenomenon. One caveat: Panelists agreed that coffee should be free in order to fully enhance the experience. Many stores charge for in-bakery coffee, though, and seem to do so quite successfully.
These three concepts underscore that fact that bakery can be a very powerful tool in the task of converting supermarket consumers -- those who enter the store to fill specific needs -- into shoppers who want product, perhaps to the extent that price becomes secondary.
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