MALVERN, Pa. -- A small flour maker is using innovative ways to spur a declining category, and it seems to be succeeding.
Acme Markets here and King Arthur Flour sponsored bread-baking classes in four cities near Philadelphia last month, attracting hundreds of consumers to the free, two-hour sessions that taught how to make sweet doughs and artisan breads.
"We had 1,450 people, an average of 175 per class, which is very successful," said Sam Sweet, sales manager for King Arthur Flour, based in Norwich, Vt.
"This is one of the premier marketing activities that we do to educate consumers about King Arthur Flour and also to make them better bakers," Sweet said. Better bakers buy more flour, the company reasons. Since 1997, dollar sales of flour in supermarkets have dropped from $386 million a year to $334.7 million, while the yearly declines in pound sales have ranged from 7% in 1998 to 3.9% for the year ended Oct. 8, 2002 according to Information Resources Inc., Chicago.
The baking classes were held in hotels where consumers watched demonstrations at a table at the front of the room, with a mirror behind it so everyone could see. Bakers demonstrated making dough and gave tips to ensure a good product. The bakers showed how to bake bread by hand and by machine, and explained the different types of wheat and flour.
King Arthur Flour was introduced to Acme in August, in three varieties of five-pound bags: bread flour, all-purpose and stone-ground whole wheat.
Sweet said King Arthur Flour was on special the week of the baking classes and the following week, two bags for $3, and those who attended the sessions got 50-cents-off coupons. Television commercials ran in conjunction with the baking classes, on the Food Network and flanking some baking shows on other cable stations.
"That is typically how we enter a market," Sweet said. Sixty percent of the company's sales are done in October, November and December, the holiday baking season. Acme had displays up in stores, signage, and product on ad, Sweet said, adding that Acme has 40% to 50% of the market share in the area.
Classes were held in hotels in Princeton, N.J., on Oct. 28; Cherry Hill, N.J., Oct. 29; Clamont, Del., Oct. 30; and King of Prussia, Pa., Oct. 31. Sessions were at noon and 7 p.m.
King Arthur Flour has a full plate of similar bread-baking promotions. It sent its bakers to Texas last week, in a four-city tour sponsored by H.E. Butt Grocery Co., San Antonio, and will work with Ralphs and Trader Joe's in California later on this fall.