Be Prepared


With the holidays looming, retailers and suppliers are readying supermarket deli and bakery departments for seasonal sales.

It’s never too early to start thinking about whipping up seasonal excitement in supermarket deli and bakery departments. Parsippany, N.J.-based Kings Food Markets, for instance, is at it all year round, with a sharp eye on the new and upcoming.

“We are always working to provide new options for our customers, keeping up with the latest food trends and our customers’ needs,” says Scott Zoeller, Kings’ senior director of deli sales and merchandising. “In the deli department, gluten-free and organic have become sought-after ingredients, and our prepared foods continually raise the flavor bar season after season, utilizing the most compelling and interesting flavor trends. For fall, some of our favorites include black truffles in cheese, sweet-flavored honey pairings (with cheddar or robust cheese), and unique sweet-and-spicy combinations, like salted caramel chocolates.”

At The Market at the Pinehills, in Plymouth, Mass., recently designated a “Healthy Market” by the state’s health department, upcoming holiday initiatives feature a decidedly better-for-you slant. “In our bakery, we are very product-focused and are adding more items that align with the ‘Healthy Plymouth’ initiative, such as whole grain offerings and gluten-free products, which are a significant part of the fourth-quarter plans,” explains Sue Blackington-Harris, the store’s general manager. “Bakery sales account for 7 percent of the store’s total sales [and] the margins average 50 percent and higher, so profits definitely impact the season.”

Convenience and Comfort

The importance of seasonal sales to both departments has a lot to do with customer convenience. “Consumers are looking for retailers to make their lives more interesting, but also easier,” asserts Mark Van Iwaarden, director of marketing at Denver-based Legendary Baking, which offers a range of pies and desserts. “In other words, make it easy to pick up their traditional favorites, but also offer them new and different, to give them options.”

Mike Rosinski, marketing director for smoked and processed meats at Duncan, S.C.-based Cryovac/Sealed Air, observing a “significant spike” in deli sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas, thanks to the increased number of both family activities and large entertaining events during that period, notes that since the holidays consist of “trying to pack too many things into too little time,” shoppers naturally turn to the deli to provide meal solutions during a such a busy period.

In addition to convenience, Rosinski points out the comfort factor: Consumers don’t have to worry about cooking deli or prepared foods wrong, since these “can’t-miss” ready-to-heat or -eat products come out right every time, while deli’s popularity suggests something for virtually any guest, as it “serves a variety of tastes.”

Maximizing Sales

When it comes to making the most of sales, retailers’ deli and bakery supplier partners are full of ideas.

“It’s all about raising awareness when talking about how to best promote in the deli,” says Scott Moses, a brand manager at Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson Foods. “Only one of four shoppers who enter the front door of their favorite grocery store will make their way into any part of the deli. In addition to point-of-sale signage in the deli, it makes sense to promote near the racetrack where shoppers will see the signage and will be more likely to visit the deli. We have found that the No. 1 reason a shopper made an unplanned prepared foods purchase was that they saw the product.”

Continues Moses: “Also, shoppers are not just buying products, they are buying meal solutions. The issues they are solving include no time to prepare dinner, don’t know how to prepare the meal from scratch, etc. One solution could be creating bundles of product through promotion, messaging or proximity of products to make it easier for the shopper to put the meal together. During the winter holiday season, retailers could also provide the holiday meals themselves through bundling deals — for example, a turkey or rotisserie chicken, sides and rolls to feed a family for a set price.”

In 2012, Tyson ran two successful holiday-themed programs: a national chicken tenders promotion co-promoted in the deli with the DVD release of “Arthur Christmas,” and a boneless wings promotion with Sutter Home wine. For 2013, the company plans to launch a line of hot appetizers in late September called Grand Openings, a 2013 Progressive Grocer. Editors’ Pick. “These products were developed with entertaining in mind,” says Moses, describing the items’ applicability to the holiday season. “Product was developed to compete in the party tray category in the deli, but also meets needs of the snacking category.”

Meanwhile, Legendary Baking’s Van Iwaarden believes the best way to lift seasonal sales “is to provide value, a quality product at a good price. No one wants a low-quality product — especially if it’s something they’re going to be serving to guests. The other thing is to start early with promoting to get people in the spirit of the holidays [and] hopefully bring them back for multiple trips.”

The company works with retailers on holiday-specific products and promotions and is currently developing products for Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and the Fourth of July, “not just the holidays at the end of the year,” he notes.

Beyond Turkey

According to Cryovac’s Rosinski, retailers need to recognize the time crunch of the holiday period for consumers and associates alike, and adopt time-saving technologies behind the deli and bakery counters to allow associates to be more customer-facing. Grocers also need to provide the most convenient products for shoppers, in terms of ready-to-heat and -serve items, he adds.

One example is the company’s Grip & Tear bag, which has finger holes that enable associates to tear it open more easily and get deli meats and cheeses on the slicer — and in shoppers’ carts — faster. Grip & Tear also enables consumers to get packaging off shrink-wrapped cheeses and semi-dry specialty salami sold in the deli case without “mangling” them, Rosinski notes.

Cryovac’s vertical pouch packaging has multiple uses across both deli and bakery, as the flexible bags with dispensers are appropriate for soups, sauces, condiments, pie fillings, icings and other “pumpable” foods, and can be opened more quickly and safely than comparable packaging, according to Rosinski, who points out that the economical solution works equally well for supermarkets as for restaurants, since the bags take up a lot less space than other containers, like #10 cans, as well as being easy to open and discard.

In the realm of portioned products, he’s enthusiastic about Cryovac’s Simple Steps microwaveable white square plate with a fully prepared meal skin-packaged to it. “Just peel the film off, and it’s ready to eat,” he notes of the item, which was displayed at the recent IDDBA show, garnering more attention than anything else from the company. This “upscale presentation of a prepared refrigerated meal,” as Rosinski characterizes it, has obvious holiday possibilities as a way to market pre-portioned seasonal dishes that can be enjoyed with minimal preparation.

A product with particular relevance for the holidays is Cryovac’s ALU bag, which was developed in Italy for boiled hams. “ALU” stands for aluminum, as the packaging has look of metalized product wrap, like the kind traditionally used for portioned ham, but is actually a shrink barrier bag that comes in festive gold, silver and red colors on which printing can be layered for a vibrant multicolor look that adds visual interest to in-store sections. Already available in Europe, the product is “still in its infancy” in the United States, notes Rosinski.

He goes on to cite Oven Ease packaging, which can accommodate a pre-cooked roasted/smoked turkey dinner, and is able to withstand a cooking temperature of 400 degrees Fahrenheit. He notes, however, that to capture more holiday sales, retailers should consider offerings beyond turkey in the deli.

For foreign markets, Cryovac developed a line of beef and pork roasts to market along with rotisserie chickens, which Rosinski describes as “almost a bit of a catering situation to provide a center-of-the-plate item.” As well as those alternatives, U.S. grocers could supplement turkey dinners with a cooked ham in an oven-ready bag, or even a pre-cooked prime rib or half rib roast — all tempting holiday-worthy proteins for “turkeyed-out” consumers in search of something special to serve.

Speaking of catering, Rosinski suggests that more retailers employ Cryovac’s packaging technology to institute programs offering to cook items for consumers and arrange pickup/delivery times of the cooked items — an operation especially suited to the holidays, given the need to save time, the elaborate nature of many seasonal meals and the “cachet” associated with certain supermarket brands.

All of these solutions speak to Cryovac packaging technology’s versatility — a word that also carries a great deal of meaning for successful deli and bakery departments during the holiday season.

“Bakery sales account for 7 percent of the store’s total sales [and] the margins average 50 percent and higher, so profits definitely impact the season.”
—Sue Blackington-Harris, The Market at the Pinehills

“Retailers could provide holiday meals through bundling deals – for example, a turkey or rotisserie chicken, sides and rolls to feed a family for a set price.”
—Scott Moses, Tyson Foods

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