CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Basha's here is serving up individual containers of Haagen-Dazs ice cream in an in-store bakery at one of its six A.J.'s Fine Foods units.
The 4.3-ounce, single-serving containers, at about 3.5 inches tall, are shaped like Haagen-Dazs pints, and are served from a low-profile, dedicated freezer case behind the bakery service counter.
The case can be seen from the bakery counter and also from the adjacent cappuccino bar, but it is not self-service.
"The individual containers look just like miniature pints of Haagen-Dazs. They're cute," said Gary Heckathorn, store director, at the A.J.'s unit in North Scottsdale, where Basha's launched the test project.
Available in three flavors -- vanilla, chocolate and caramel -- the single-serving ice cream got its debut in the bakery earlier this month. The timing is slightly unfortunate, Heckathorn said, because the height of ice cream season has wound down -- even in sunny Arizona. But customers are receiving the product well, considering it is October, he said.
Its potential can't really be evaluated until next spring when the approaching summer makes adults and kids alike start thinking about ice cream, Heckathorn noted.
Adding ice cream -- which had originally been planned as a hand-dipped cone and cup station -- was expected to add a festive air at the front of the store and get people to slow their pace in front of the bakery. Installing the case at the bakery seemed right because the department is located up front, just left of the store's entrance and seating is available at the cappuccino bar next to it. There are also tables and chairs outside, beside the entrance to the store, which is situated in an small, upscale strip mall.
"There isn't an ice cream shop in this mall. For that reason, I guess, customers had been asking us about [service] ice cream. That's how the idea started. Then we figured if we were going to add ice cream in the bakery we wanted it to be one that customers recognize as a good one," Heckathorn said.
The company chose to carry the three flavors that are Haagen-Dazs' top sellers overall, Heckathorn said. A.J's is selling the mini-containers for $1.79 each.
The retailer's plan to launch hand-dipped ice cream last summer got thwarted because getting a real dipping case -- one that keeps the ice cream just soft enough to make it easily dippable -- in a size the bakery department could accommodate, proved to be a problem.
"[The individual containers] probably will work out even better, because a dipping station is very labor intensive," Heckathorn said.
The little containers of Haagen-Dazs are not usually seen at retail. Their distribution has, for the most part, been limited to institutions such as hospitals.
At A.J.'s, a highly visible floor sign at the entrance to the bakery heralds the arrival of Haagen-Dazs there. It says, "Haagen-Dazs individual ice cream servings now available in our bakery."
When ice cream season approaches in the spring, the store will probably place a sign or hang a banner outside the store that will tell the Haagen-Dazs-in-the-bakery story, Heckathorn said.