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FRESH FOOD: IDDBA Preview: Full agenda

There's a lot going on in deli and bakery departments these days. And there's no better place to get a close-up glimpse of that reality than the fast-approaching International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA) annual seminar and expo, on deck from June 11 to June 13 in Orlando, Fla.

In the weeks leading up to IDDBA's 42nd annual event, Progressive Grocer enlisted the help of a cross-section of leading industry executives to provide insights on key issues at the forefront of the tandem business.

Those issues include the challenge of incorporating the health-and-wellness movement in the cases and on the shelves, the critical need to satisfy consumers that are both time-stressed and quality-conscious, and finding the right balance between national brands and the departments' role in promoting store-brand equity.

The members of the think tank are:

--Eric LeBlanc, director of deli marketing and prepared foods, Tyson Foods, Springdale, Ark.

--John Crowder, group director, trade marketing, Sara Lee Food & Beverage, Downers Grove, Ill.

--Doris Hanson, director, channel marketing, Rich Products Corp., Buffalo, N.Y.

--Andrew Ly, president and c.e.o., Sugar Bowl Bakery, San Francisco

--Michael Zeccola, director of retail sales and marketing, American Roland Foods Corp., New York

--Julie Chamot, market development manager/national accounts, Dawn Food Products, Inc., Jackson, Mich.

Eric LeBlanc, director of deli marketing and prepared foods, Tyson Foods

Progressive Grocer: What are the most important trends influencing sales?

LeBlanc: Cooking skills are lower than they have ever been, and consumer kitchens are filled with gadgets rather than basic cooking tools.

The consumer is pressed for time, so even if she had the skills and equipment, there are too many demands on her for her to make conventional meals. But there are two trends that send the consumer in another direction: growing culinary sophistication gained through dining out, and the resurgence of the family meal, albeit in modified form. So...can't cook, don't have the equipment, don't have time, but know good food and want to eat at home with family.

Filling the gap is food prepared away from home, but consumed in the home, from casual dining-to-go programs. This meal occasion is custom-tailored for deli, and consumers have strong associations with their delis for quality and freshness. The gap in the deli offering, however, is convenience, service, and variety.

PG: What is your organization doing to respond?

LeBlanc: We've spent time in consumers' kitchens, gone shopping with them, and prepared meals with them -- even looked through their refrigerators -- and we've observed a range of behaviors. Consumers who buy a rotisserie chicken and stuff the packaging way down in the garbage so no one knows they "cheated" for tonight's dinner. Another family unashamedly consuming the food right out of the package. These behaviors are neither good nor bad, but they're real. We can help retailers understand which consumer segments shop their store, and help them to reach their highest-value segments.

PG: Many consumers don't plan to shop the deli and bakery on every visit. How can retailers change that?

LeBlanc: Consumers want to love your deli. But they will punish you for poor service, a dirty or poorly organized department, or unkempt staff.

Assuming you've got these elementary bases covered, what then? Look at the efforts today to create a point of difference on rotisserie chicken. There are flavor extensions, larger-size birds, all-natural chicken. We do all of those things, too. But fundamentally, none of these efforts really expands the meal occasion offered by deli: If I want a hot meal for immediate consumption, chances are it's a roasted chicken. How about variety, such as a rotisserie pork loin? All of a sudden I have a choice and a reason to increase my frequency.

Another opportunity is in merchandising a whole-meal solution. It's all there, but you need to do the footwork and the thinking for your consumer. Merchandise meal items together, price them as a package, but preserve the shopper's ability to choose sides and accompaniments.

PG: What are the primary challenges and greatest opportunities?

LeBlanc: Labor -- can't afford it, can't get quality labor. I don't pretend there's an easy solution, but here are a few starters: Are there product solutions from manufacturers that remove labor? Even if they're more expensive, they can be a bargain if you can reallocate some of that staff time from prep to customer service. Is it possible to use technology to bridge some service gaps, e.g., electronic ordering kiosks or messaging systems that answer consumer questions that otherwise get asked at the counter? Technology isn't as effective as human contact, but it beats the heck out of the human contact that doesn't happen.

PG: What's one of the forces that will affect your organization's retail strategy in the immediate future?

LeBlanc: Branding. Consumers crave the confidence that brands inspire. We need to have a nuanced view of brand. When should the retailer activate a national brand? When doing so drives velocity, decreases price sensitivity, and/or creates customer loyalty in the shopper. Take rotisserie chicken: We've done consumer research that shows consumers prefer to see the Tyson brand on a rotisserie chicken over the supermarket brand by six to one or more.

That doesn't mean that there isn't a place in the deli for retailer brands. Utilize store brands where the manufacturer brand doesn't deliver on velocity, price sensitivity, or customer loyalty, or when you have a consumer-validated reason to believe that the store brand is more powerful in activating the consumer.

John Crowder, group director, trade marketing, Sara Lee Food & Beverage

Progressive Grocer: What are the most important trends influencing sales?

Crowder: The on-the-go lifestyle of Americans is a big factor. Consumers have less time and are looking for ease in meal planning and ease in the shopping experience.

At the same time, the demand for products that deliver on taste and nutrition continues to grow. However, consumers want better nutrition and great taste.

PG: What's your organization doing to respond?

Crowder: Product innovation has always and will always be the key to success. Sara Lee is bringing shoppers to the bread aisle for new and differentiated products that deliver taste and nutrition. Our Sara Lee Soft & Smooth Made With Whole Grain White Bread is now the No. 1-selling bread in the country.

Nothing could be easier than making a sandwich. Our research shows that the sandwich is the most frequently consumed entree at home for lunch and dinner. Our goal is to make it easier for shoppers to add meats, cheeses, condiments, and snacks to their shopping basket to add profit and incremental sales to grocers. By combining out-of-store marketing communications with in-store displays and point-of-sale materials, we're driving continuity and maximizing impact at the point of purchase.

PG: Many consumers don't plan to shop the deli and bakery on every visit. How can retailers change that?

Crowder: Fresh bread sales are important to grocers because of its high profitability and importance in building other product sales, i.e., toppings for sandwiches, condiments, snacks, etc. Fresh bakery is by far the most profitable DSD category in the store and has broad shopper appeal. The key is to increase frequency and transaction size.

When breads are displayed around the perimeter, grocers capture sales that could have gone to the convenience store or bakery down the street. Cross-category tie-ins also work, by delivering meal solutions with multiple fresh bakery segment options at the shelf and on display. Our multicategory promotions -- like "Celebrations Made Simple" and "Pack a Picnic Full of Fun" -- encourage increased transactions.

PG: What are the primary challenges and greatest opportunities?

Crowder: Quick-service restaurants, fast-casual restaurants, and new outlets offering to-go options can affect sales of traditional products in grocery. At the same time, it offers us a tremendous opportunity to meet consumer needs in new ways.

It's also important to capture every shopper's bread purchases every time she's in the store. Shoppers regularly make purchases in at least four bakery segments, such as bread, buns, bagels, and English muffins, so making it easy for her to pick up multiple segments, plus the added items she'll need to build sandwiches/meals, will increase sales and profit.

PG: What's one of the forces that will affect your organization's retail strategy in the immediate future?

Crowder: Category management. We're investing in fact-based consumer and shopper insights research to help us understand every element of the shopping experience. Through market structure studies, shopper intercepts, store-level demographics, and other in-store research techniques, we're pulling together insights that will help make the bread aisle easier to shop.

Doris Hanson, director, channel marketing, Rich Products Corp.

Progressive Grocer: What are the most important trends influencing sales?

Hanson: Health and wellness, skilled labor, indulgence, and foodservice trends, including the impact of takeout dining from traditional restaurants.

PG: What's your organization doing to respond?

Hanson: We're continuously addressing products. For example, we removed trans fats from some items to address the issue. We're assisting retailers with the foodservice trends by sharing our knowledge and making recommendations. We have provided solutions in products, production, and merchandising programs to help them address their product offering and labor.

PG: Many consumers don't plan to shop the deli and bakery on every visit. How can retailers change that?

Hanson: Cross-merchandise and build displays outside of the department. Retailers can also create excitement in their bakery departments through special events. Freshening up your product offering with new products is also key, as is communicating freshness through signage and merchandising. And let's not forget sampling, which can go a long way in helping to build a point of difference for your bakery department.

PG: What's one of the forces that will affect your organization's retail strategy in the immediate future?

Hanson: With Rich's In-Store Bakery Division's recognition by Progressive Grocer as Category Captain, Best in Class, we will continue to develop products and programs for our customers. Our approach is to utilize fact-based information, identify implications, recommend an executable strategy, and develop parameters for measurement. This will provide our customers with the necessary tools to profitably grow their business.

Andrew Ly, president and c.e.o., Sugar Bowl Bakery

Progressive Grocer: What are the most important trends influencing sales?

Ly: Growing categories of organic, all-natural, and whole grain offerings, and portion control due to the growing awareness of health-related issues. High quality is never a trend, but it's always important to remember consumers will pay more for products they view as delivering a sense of special satisfaction. Decadent offerings and larger pack sizes and portions will also continue to be a growth segment. In addition, "the fresher the better" is extremely important, as are grab-and-go items for time-starved families and "grazing" consumers.

PG: What's your organization doing to respond?

Ly: We're developing a complete lineup of organic and all-natural product offerings. We moved quickly to "no trans fat" products ahead of the FDA nutritional labeling requirements. In addition, we provide a wide variety of products in various sizes and pack sizes.

We have continuously developed our petite bite-size line to encourage portion control, and have a comprehensive and expanding DSD Fresh division to support our regional customers.

PG: Many consumers don't plan to shop the deli and bakery on every visit. How can retailers change that?

Ly: Cross-marketing or combo marketing between the retail aisles and peripheral departments to attract consumers that wouldn't have planned to visit them. Promotional activities generated from these departments are also effective to draw consumers over to the department. For example, Safeway used to have numbered circles on the floor throughout the store. The bakery would announce a cake giveaway for people standing on a particular number. You should have seen the rush to get to a circle. That was very creative interaction!

The expanded sampling programs or in-store demos are also effective. Costco is a perfect example, as they have constantly utilized their demo program to drive incremental sales.

Advertising is a must, as is collaboration between manufacturers and retailers.

PG: What's one of the forces that will affect your organization's retail strategy in the immediate future?

Ly: Branding, leveraging the emerging Sugar Bowl Bakery brand, which has already been well established nationally and internationally, with a new generation of products that addresses many of the discussion topics noted here.

Michael Zeccola, director of retail sales and marketing, American Roland Foods Corp.

Progressive Grocer: What are the most important trends influencing sales?

Zeccola: First of all, the perimeter business at all stores continues to grow while the center of the store is shrinking. Time and convenience are the dominant trends in these sections. The consumer who visits these sections is usually "on the run," with little time to think about what meals to prepare.

PG: What's your organization doing to respond?

Zeccola: When shopping the perimeter of the store, they expect quality, price, and convenience, which Roland delivers. The consumer is looking for quality items. Roland continually sources the highest-quality products from all over the world. Our offerings include many side dishes, as well as ingredients used in center-of-the-plate entrees. Deli/bakery/prepared foods compete with outside foodservice establishments. Roland gives retailers the ammunition to compete.

PG: Many consumers don't plan to shop the deli and bakery on every visit. How can retailers change that?

Zeccola: Provide -- through the accounts' own ad vehicles, through joint-at-shelf POS efforts, or via Web sites or other off-premise opportunities -- ideas, recipes, entertaining, or dining suggestions that drive consumers to these departments. Sampling through demos also creates excitement. It's important to make a trip to these departments a memorable experience.

PG: What are the primary challenges and greatest opportunities?

Zeccola: Staying in touch with the consumer to offer products that are "hot" and "trendy." You want the consumer to focus in on one-stop shopping. Roland continues to stay ahead of these trends with product offerings from all over the globe. We also offer natural products.

PG: What's one of the forces in the market that will affect your organization's retail strategy in the immediate future?

Zeccola: Branding. Since 1934 Roland has been at the forefront in most foodservice establishments. We are in the process of, and have made significant strides in, duplicating our philosophy from foodservice to the retail arena. We offer over 1,200 SKUs companywide, and 500 SKUs at retail. In addition to specialty departments, you will find Roland products in grocery, appy, deli, produce, prepared foods, bakery, and seafood.

Julie Chamot, market development manager/ national accounts, Dawn Food Products, Inc.

Progressive Grocer: What are the most important trends influencing sales?

Chamot: Dawn has been studying global macro-trends for the past several years, and believes they are the primary drivers of consumer behavior. One key factor impacting the food industry is shifting demographics. The aging of the population in most regions of the world, combined with smaller households, is resulting in greater interest in products that offer both health benefits and single-serving sizes.

The worldwide "globesity" epidemic is driving interest in products that offer reduced fat and sugar content. The focus on health and wellness is causing consumers to shun specific ingredients, and seek fortified foods and natural products. The time stress we experience is driving interest in convenience and forcing manufacturers to develop ready-to-eat meal solutions in portable formats. And finally, the desire to reward ourselves with affordable indulgences such as luxurious desserts and top-quality gourmet foods is driving sales in all sectors of the market.

PG: What's your organization doing to respond?

Chamot: Dawn is working to understand these opportunities, focus our resources, and align our teams to optimize product offerings.

Consumers are more demanding than ever. They're reading labels, balancing their food intake with their energy output, and choosing foods that meet their specific needs on a given day at a given time. One day they may spend leisure time food shopping, buying multiple ingredients, and cooking a gourmet meal; the next day, they might dash in to pick up a prepared meal they can quickly heat and eat. As manufacturers and grocers we must continue to offer products at both ends of the spectrum. We're directly addressing these trends with relevant bakery products such as a line of smaller size, five-inch cakes that are perfect for two, and products made with whole grains.

PG: Many consumers don't plan to shop the deli and bakery on every visit. How can retailers change that?

Chamot: True knowledge of your particular customers' needs is the only way to develop the appropriate offering in the bakery. Once this has been identified, it's easy to shift shopping behaviors. We work with our customers to develop many different types of merchandising programs that drive traffic and impulse sales to the in-store bakery; for example, cross-merchandising healthier muffins or single-serve items with meal solutions to build incremental sales.

As consumers become more concerned about the foods they eat, they're exploring alternative products that complement their healthy lifestyles. But, of course, they still want them to taste great. One of the new products that has been embraced by consumers is Dawn's line of Weight Watchers sweet goods. This is due to the fact that it addresses consumer needs for products that fit within a balanced lifestyle and offer better alternatives than traditional snacks.

With two out of three American adults overweight or obese, consumers want to find healthy ways to manage their weight.

In addition, new flours that perform like white flour but retain the healthful properties of whole grains have enabled Dawn to create a wide variety of whole grain products. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans' key recommendation calls for a diet balanced 50-50 between whole grains and enriched grains, resulting in consumption of an average of three one-ounce servings of whole grains per day. A wide variety of whole grain choices will help consumers take advantage of their benefits, including complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and the insurance against obesity, heart disease, and colorectal cancer that they provide.

Consumers with special dietary needs, such as diabetes, and those who must manage their intake of carbohydrates or control their glycemic index, are looking for great-tasting sugar-free baked goods. Dawn offers a variety of sugar-free products, among them mixes, bases, icings, and frozen products, including muffins, creme cakes, and decorated cakes.
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