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Lateral thinking in merchandising


Merchandising has come a long way since Carol Christison started planning for IDDBA’s more than 25 years ago, and no where in the show is that more evident than the annual Show and Sell merchandising pavilion. What started as a couple of table top displays with products laid from end to end has since blossomed into a show staple, a binding center around which the rest show floor tends to orbit. Merchandising has grown beyond cardboard displays and into a more cerebral world of finely honed techniques to encourage a sale.

IDDBA merchOf course, merchandising can still be a straightforward venture. Bakery products are in a unique position in that they can stand on their own merits, as the combined appearance and aroma of a fine fresh cake or pastry are everything a baker needs to provoke a customer to buy. A quick glance through some of the display cases in Atlanta in a few days will bear this out. Baked products tend to do a great job of selling themselves. But if there is an edge to be had, why not grab it?

“There’s a lot more co-branding and new thinking for product usage and packaging,” Christison says. “Being able to multi-purpose or repurpose an item adds value for the supplier, the retailer and the consumer.”

At this time last year, clear plastic corsage boxes found a new calling as the cupcake craze swept through. The corsage boxes were perfect for displaying ornately designed, single-serve sized items in the same way they would display a flower arrangement for a starry-eyed prom date. Several packaging companies have since gotten wise to the cupcake/corsage connection, and now supply clamshell cases designed specifically for cupcakes. Odd that it took some outside the box thinking to put a cupcake in a box. I’m curious about the next merchandising idea, and what everyday bakery item might be employed in an interesting, even bizarre manner. I’ll certainly blog about what I find.

Meanwhile, Christison is starting to hear a buzz about the need to “be ready” with new ideas and products when shoppers are ready to start buying again. The next big trend isn’t about the most expensive item or the biggest–it’s about capturing the customer’s imagination and getting them excited. That means staying one step ahead of your competition. Sure, bakery products will sell themselves to some extent. But this is no time to be passive, grab every advantage you can in order to be ready when the customers come back in earnest.

Visit to view the current and past issues of Modern Baking.


Liz Webber

Liz Webber is Engagement Director / Fresh Market Editor at Supermarket News. She covers fresh foods for the magazine and creates multimedia, blog posts and other content for the website. She joined...
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