CARLISLE, Pa. -- Giant Food Stores here has expanded its dessert category with the introduction of restaurant-quality pies to its in-store bakeries. The pies are also in Giant subsidiary Edwards Super Food Stores, according to officials.
Giant and Edwards are carrying about a dozen varieties of Bakers Square fruit and cream pies, including Dutch apple, cherry, pumpkin, pecan and chocolate mint. While inventory may differ slightly from store to store, the overall year-round favorite is apple, according to Jim Donegan, vice president of sales and marketing for Bakers Square's parent company, Vicorp Restaurants Inc., Denver, which operates the well-known restaurant chain with a reputation for hearty pies
In Edwards' New Hyde Park, N.Y., unit, bakery manager Sonia Deda said even in her densely populated bakery, far from Denver and loyal Bakers Square fans, the pies have been selling well.
"I have 52,000 items in my bakery," Deda said. "So there is a lot for the customers to choose from. I think they are coming in looking for something maybe to bring to a party and these [Bakers Square pies] look good, but no one has really said anything about [recognizing the name]."
"It's true most people [in these areas] haven't heard of our name," he said. "But I think this only proves that, if the product is really good, it will sell regardless and people will come to know [the name]."
Prior to bringing Bakers Square to the mix, Edward's ISB offered premium pies manufactured by Rich Products Corp., Buffalo, N.Y., which Deda said it continues to carry in order to provide greater variety. In addition, the ISB also makes its own pies, which sell for $4.99 for an 8-inch and $5.49 for a 10-inch. Deda said she is confident its pies will continue to sell because of the difference in price. Bakers Square pies are 9 inches and sell for between $6.99 and $10.99.
To get the quality message across in unfamiliar territory, the company has been hosting store-level demos, allowing the customers to "taste for themselves."
"We did demos in [Giant and Edwards] which we pay for," said Donegan. "When you brand an item, you really need to make a commitment."
Bakers Square is also supplying in-store merchandising materials. Donegan said the point-of-sale items include counter cards, hanging shots and banners for within the department, as well as window posters and other items for the front of the store.
Pies are shipped frozen from Bakers Square's commissaries. At the store, some need to be baked-off and others are kept frozen. Donegan said while the company does operate three plants -- in Chicago; Mounds View, Minn. ; and Los Angeles -- Edwards most likely receives the bulk of its supply from the Chicago plant, since it is closest to the stores.
Discussions are in progress between Bakers Square and Giant's parent company, Ahold, Zaandam, Netherlands, to bring the signature pies into additional Ahold-owned divisions.
The debut of Bakers Square pies reflects a growing trend, which finds restaurant items packaged for supermarket shelves. According to the pie manufacturer, the rollout was timed to coincide with the end-of-year holidays.
"We shipped between $600,000 and $700,000 of product to [Giant and Edwards] in November alone," said Donegan.
Deda said while all pies are merchandised together in her ISB, she made special displays around the holidays.
Units of Farmer Jack and Kohl's Food Stores, two divisions of A&P, Montvale, N.J., were the first supermarkets to carry the pies, and made their in-store debut a year ago.