CHICAGO -- An imposing, inflatable cow will steer consumers to the cheese case inside Treasure Island stores here next month during a Swiss foods promotion.
With a Swiss cheese banner wrapped around its tummy, the black-and-white cow character, who stands 9 feet tall, will be one of the more flamboyant parts of the promotion. All six stores in the Treasure Island chain will participate in the month-long event, which showcases not only the cheeses of Switzerland but shelf-stable food products manufactured by Swiss companies
"We're going to try to combine grocery and deli for this program," said Mark Veith, an account manager with CDS, a Chicago-based food brokerage company coordinating the event. "We've done this before with Italian products but not with Swiss products. We try to partner up and get everyone to pitch in and have more of an impact for the retailer."
In the cheese manufacturing world, Switzerland is a heavyweight. According to industry sources, Switzerland produces more than 450 varieties of cheese, though only a handful find their way into American stores. "Many of our cheeses are the best in the world," Veith said.
An upscale independent, with most of its stores located inside the city limits, Treasure Island has been described as a one-stop shopping source for international foods. It has a reputation for carrying a vast assortment of foods from around the world, as well as many gourmet and specialty items, including a sizeable selection of cheeses. Treasure Island competes with the two mainstays of food retailing in the Windy City -- Jewel and Dominick's, who operate hundreds of stores in the city and suburbs.
The goal of the Swiss promotion is to reinforce the upscale, cosmopolitan image of the retailer in the minds of consumers, introduce them to some potentially new foods and drive sales, Veith said.
Like the cow, heavy wheels of Emmentaler and Gruyere cheese will be hard to miss, set up in the store delis. The big wheels will make a statement. "It makes consumers think, at Treasure Island, these guys are experts at cheese," Veith said, noting the retailer sells very little pre-cut cheese.
A big wheel in its own right, Emmentaler is Switzerland's oldest and most important cheese. A cow's milk variety, Emmentaler has an unmistakable nutty, sweet flavor. It is exported in giant wheels that weigh from 150 to 220 pounds each. Also a cow's milk cheese, Gruyere has a rich, sweet flavor that makes it good for snacking and cooking. It is produced in 100-pound wheels normally cut into wedges for the market. Gruyere is also produced in France and other countries.
Shoppers will have plenty of opportunities to taste the goods. Food demonstrators, employed by CDS and specially trained in the art of selling and schmoozing, will be on hand to offer samples of easy-to-fix, cheese-based dishes, as well as cubes of various cheeses. Recipes for consumers to take home will be available.
For CDS, which specializes in fresh and specialty foods, the cow costume is a new addition to the company's bag of tricks. CDS employees, as well as the 14-year-old son of one of the company's owners, have donned the costume during various store promotions. Naturally, the cow's height and appearance are hard to ignore.