HUDSONVILLE, Mich. -- Family Fare Super Markets here has won an award for a dramatic promotion that pushed sales of its paczki up by more than three times, and it will employ a similar effort to tout an Easter product this year, company officials said.
Paczki (pronounced poonch-key) are rich, Bismarck-like pastries that have their origins in Poland. Traditionally, the super-rich treats were the last indulgence Lenten observers allowed themselves before Lent. Some supermarkets have been leveraging the treats into significant seasonal sales, particularly in the last few years.
Family Fare's paczki promotion won the 12-unit chain a Creative Choice award for bakery from the National Grocers Association, Reston, Va., and Food Distributors International, Falls Church, Va., which co-sponsor Creative Choice awards in several categories annually.
The award-winning strategy was so effective that Family Fare has since used a similar tactic to market its signature cinnamon rolls and is looking to do the same with a fresh-baked product this Easter, said Jim Nader, vice president of marketing and operations at Family Fare.
"We don't know which product we'll promote or what we'll do yet for Easter, but that's part of it. We don't want to be predictable," Nader said in an interview earlier this month.
The award-winning paczki promotional ploy was orchestrated on Fat Tuesday, the day before the beginning of Lent. Nader and several other officials of the company donned red rain ponchos with white banners draped over them that identified the executives as the "Paczki Patrol."
They then traveled to downtown Grand Rapids in two vans bearing the Family Fare logo. Flashing lights on top of the vans succeeded in attracting peoples' attention. The officials jumped out at street intersections and doled out paczki to anyone who would take them. Boxes of paczki were delivered to businesses. Along with the free paczki, every taker got a Family Fare flier as well as a paczki information sheet.
"We decided we wanted to own the paczki business in this area. We wanted people to think of us when they thought of paczki," Nader said.
The award -- a crystal trophy -- presented this year was for last year's promotional effort, which tripled the retailer's sales of paczki. From 11 stores, the company sold 3,200 dozen.
This year, sales kept on climbing -- up 2% for the pre-Lenten selling season compared with the same period last year. The company sells paczki only in the two-week period preceding Lent.
He explained that Family Fare purposefully did not create a huge event surrounding paczki this year because it doesn't want to be pegged predictable.
Nader said it did use window banners and made in-store announcements this year. It also used a lot of point-of-purchase materials produced by the National Paczki Promotion Board, which has recently been brought under the umbrella of the Laurel, Md.-based Retailer's Bakery Association.
Family Fare, which is supplied by wholesaler Spartan Stores, Grand Rapids, Mich., has offered paczki for several years, Nader said. Last year, however, was the first time the company had gone all out to promote the pre-Lenten treats.
Printed materials and a description of the promotional activity were submitted this year for the Creative Choice competition and the award was presented at a recent meeting of the NGA in Houston.
Referring to Family Fare's ongoing strategy of creating unpredictable events, Nader said, "We don't know how crazy we'll get for the Easter promotion."
"We offered a free lunch. Two spareribs, a side dish and a roll. Absolutely free. That got a lot of attention," Nader said.