The bakery department isn't the only place where shoppers are picking up their favorite desserts this holiday season. Thanks to strong promotions and discounts, the frozens and grocery aisles are also popular destination points.
Shoppers in search of desserts to top off their favorite holiday meals are finding special offers on frozen cakes, pies and pie crusts, along with packaged cake mixes, frostings and fillings.
Retailers also are taking full advantage of a variety of discounts that vendors are offering for the holidays. For instance, Giant Food, Landover, Md., has promoted frozen Mrs. Smith's pumpkin or custard pies at $2.66 for a 37-ounce package. The promotion was featured in a newspaper ad.
For the holidays, Bashas' Markets, Chandler, Ariz., sold its leading frozen pie, Mrs. Smith's, at two for $5, said Bill Romley, buyer of frozen food.
Big V, Florida, N.Y., has gone even further, offering a major discount on Mrs. Smith's pies in all 31 of its stores. The promotion, offered at Thanksgiving, combined a manufacturer's discount with several of its own coupons, reducing the final cost from about $2.99 to just 99 cents. The promotion was highlighted on the front page of its circular.
"It was one of the biggest promotions we've offered on frozen pies," said Garry Stevens, Big V's senior marketing director. "As a result, the pies sold very well. We made some money on them as well."
Retailers agreed that such discounts are needed to attract shoppers to the frozens section. Though frozen desserts are convenient, they won't sell well unless priced competitively, they said.
"It's definitely a price-point item. If you're competing against an in-store bakery, there needs to be a price-point advantage," said Stevens of Big V.
Retailers are promoting other Center Store dessert items as well. Catering to consumers who prefer to make a cake of their own, Bashas' is giving plenty of attention to shelf-stable and frozen pie crusts and canned fillings.
"During this time of year, many people like to take the time out to make pies," Romley of Bashas' said.
Autry Greer & Sons, Prichard, Ala., has devoted endcap displays to Duncan Hines cake mixes and frostings, said Bill Adcox, buyer for grocery and frozen food.
The retailer also is devoting extra freezer space to pie crusts and has put in shipper displays for graham cracker crusts, Adcox said.
Winn-Dixie's Atlanta division promoted assorted Betty Crocker baking ingredients, including cake mixes at 88 cents for a 10-ounce box; Ready to Spread Frostings, $1.18 for a 16-ounce cup; and Fudge Brownie Mix, 98 cents for a 20-ounce package. Also, Gold Medal flour was offered for 98 cents for a 5-pound bag.
Kroger Co.'s Atlanta division also has been promoting ingredients needed to make desserts, such as solid pack Libby's Pumpkin, 99 cents for a 15-ounce can; Diamond chopped walnuts, $2.99 for an 8-ounce package; and pie crusts, $1.19 for a 6-ounce package. Private-label spices, including Kroger-brand cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice, were featured as well.
Kroger's Atlanta division also ran a half-page ad for Edwards Gourmet Pies, in Mississippi mud, apple, pecan or pumpkin cheese cake varieties. Each retailed for $5.99.
Edwards Super Food Stores, Windsor Locks, Conn., lowered the price of several holiday staples, including Wesson Oil, at $3.24 a gallon; Gold Medal flour, 54 cents for a 5-pound bag; and Finast Grade A Large Eggs, 99 cents for a dozen. "Edwards Super Food Stores Lowers the Price of Holiday Baking" read a circular ad that highlighted the campaign.
But other retailers are concentrating on premade frozen treats, saying the majority of their consumers are too time-pressed to bake from scratch.
Though Adcox said consumers often shop bakeries because they get a fresher product, he said there are many who prefer frozen desserts.
"You can take them home and store them for when you need them, rather than have to run out on the day of a party," he said, noting that he's noticed a slight increase in frozen pie sales over last year.
Part of the attraction of frozen desserts is that vendors often discount them this time of year. Seaway Food Town, Maumee, Ohio, reduced retails on several of its selections, depending on what vendors offered, said Mike Schnapp, frozens and dairy buyer.
Deep discounts also helped move frozen pies at Village Super Market, Springfield, N.J., said Sam Ciardi, frozen food and dairy supervisor.
Village Market, which operates 26 stores under the ShopRite banner, makes good use of ads and door signs to put its frozen pies in the spotlight.
"Supermarket bakeries are expanding, and, as a result, cake and pie prices are going down. That means we have to bring our prices down even more -- which is what we've done. We're basically giving them away," Ciardi said. Village Market carried a ShopRite private-label pie for several years, but discontinued it this year due to poor sales.
Along with Christmas promotions, retailers are catering to their Jewish customers. For Hanukkah, Edwards Super Food Stores promoted Kedeem pie filling, along with Kineret puff pastry, at $2.89 for a 16-ounce box, and Paskesz chocolate coins, three packages for $1, with five coins in a package.
Retailers also haven't forgotten about their calorie-conscious shoppers. At Thanksgiving, Kroger, for instance, promoted Del Monte canned fruit cocktail, $1.39 for a 29- to 30-ounce can.