Category Reviews / Food Reviews / Retailer Features / Marketing Features / Trend Features

A Walk Down the Aisle: BAKERY

March 30, 2012
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BY LYNN CELMER & PLBUYER'S SECRET SHOPPERS

From Dough to Dough

Compared to last year, food retailers still have some work to do when it comes to displaying and marketing their private label baked goods. Read what else PLBuyer secret shoppers found that can help you improve sales of your baked goods.
Americans' love affair with baked goods hasn’t ceased at all, although they are more concerned about their health and wellness and that has some food retailers focusing more on private label baked goods to attract today’s health-conscious shopper.“We worked with a supplier to develop a private label line of gluten-free/sugar-free/no sugar added items that include muffins, cookies, round cakes and loaf cakes,” says John Rose, bakery category manager for Tyler, Texas-based Brookshire Grocery Co.
“This has enabled us to attract a customer that we might not have had otherwise.”When it comes to in-store merchandising of bakery items, it’s best to have fewer SKU’s with adequate quantity and to merchandise them by eating occasion, says Tammy Kampsula, business director, bakery, for Lubbock, Texas-based United Supermarkets. “Engage consumers by using color and product arrangements for visual appeal,” she says.
Regarding current bakery trends, United Supermarkets is seeing guests look for smaller package sizes and individual desserts and also reading the labels for ingredients and nutritional information, Kampsula says.
Brookshire’s Rose says it continues to see a lot of popularity in the cupcake category. “Interestingly enough, that category has been enjoying continued growth over the last two or three years or so, and is still trending upward,” he says. “We are also working on growing our pie category, given that the pie category has been fairly static industry-wide. It does seem as though in the bakery business, categories tend to cycle in popularity or lack thereof; thus perhaps, it’s time for the pie category to move to the front burner.”

WHAT THEY FOUND
In contrast to a year ago, in-store ads for those private label bakery items were evident in all but one of the retailers visited by PLBuyer’s Secret Shopper panel in January, although, none of the retailers had on-shelf price tag comparisons of private label and national brand products. The majority of stores, depending on which product, also stock their private label offerings directly next to national brand competitors.
One of the shoppers at a Fry’s in Mesa, Ariz. noted that when there were more national brands for a particular product, they were located on the middle and upper shelves, whereas the private label products were located on the bottom shelves.
However, if there was a large supply of a private label product, it was found on the top, middle and bottom of the shelves and the national brand would be next to it. Another shopper at a Price Chopper in Kansas City, Mo., noticed that there were many, many national brands in this category and it was very competitive for shelf space. “It seemed like bakeries send staff to tidy and perhaps restock shelves during the day; one visited while I was checking prices on a Sunday morning about 10:30 a.m.”
In addition to looking for in-store merchandising, shoppers also recorded prices of comparable private label and national brand English muffins, raisin bread, sandwich thins and hot dog buns and did their own taste tests. The goal of our walks down the aisle is to provide you, our readers, with market intelligence and insights you can use to increase your sales.
Prices for private label offerings were generally lower than their national brand competitors but private label offerings weren’t available in some categories, many of our shoppers discovered.
At the Kansas City, Price Chopper, for example, our secret shopper couldn’t find any private label English muffins, raisin bread or sandwich thins. At the Fry’s store in Mesa, Ariz., our secret shopper didn’t see any private label raisin bread.
Unanimously, hot dog buns saw the biggest price differences at all of the retailers shopped. The biggest difference was $2.50 between the same size package of private label hot dog buns and national brand hot dog buns at Fry’s in Mesa, Ariz. At an Ingles store in Asheville, N.C., there was $1.66 price difference between the private label hot dog buns and national brand buns and at the Price Chopper in Kansas City,  there was $1.30 different between the private label hot dog buns and national brand buns.
When our shoppers looked for English muffins, three out of the four retailers had only slight price differences between the private label product and the national brand product. At Fry’s in Mesa, Thomas’ English muffins were on sale for $1.99 and the private label English muffins were priced at $1.79, only a $0.20 difference. At Safeway in Colorado Springs, Colo., Thomas’ English muffins were $2.99 when purchased with a club card and the Safeway Kitchens private label brand were $2.29, a $0.70 difference. At an Ingles store in Asheville, N.C., there was an $0.80 difference between the Thomas’ English muffins priced at $2.98 and the private label English muffins priced at $2.18.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS
Asked to comment on other things they noticed as they walked the aisle, our shoppers discussed the way items appeared on store shelves, how the products were merchandised and how the private label products were nearly identical to the national brands.
Private label displays at Safeway “were all scattered about. Some similar products were stacked top/bottom versus side-by-side,” says secret shopper Christina R.Mike G. says at the Price Chopper he visited, English muffins were not in the bakery aisle, interestingly, but were shelved separately on an end cap display near the checkouts.
He also says that he almost never purchases private label products in this category.
“We usually purchase bread by style (for example, seeded rye or multi-grain) and then compare nutrition and price for national brands for the type of bread we’re purchasing. Sometimes there is a private label brand for the breads we prefer, but not often.”

TASTE TESTS
Tasting the national brand vs. private label English muffins, Sarah C. says, “there is definitely a difference between the national brand and private label English muffins. The national brand is softer, and the butter melts nicely on it and it tastes better.”
Bill K. in Asheville, N.C. also tried English muffins and said “there was no discernable difference in the products once the packaging was removed.”
Christina R. in Colorado Springs tried the Safeway Kitchens cinnamon raisin bread since it was on sale and had this to say “it had a great taste and plenty of raisins and cinnamon for my taste.”

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