CINCINNATI PACZKI EVENT ROLLS IN DOUGH

CINCINNATI -- Supermarket participation in paczki celebrations and sales here doubled this year with the addition of Kroger Co. stores in the area.The company sent a representative to the second Annual Paczki Celebration here at Fountain Square where local officials, an NFL football player and a team of ice skaters helped kick off the media event designed to call attention to the rich pre-Lenten treats.

CINCINNATI -- Supermarket participation in paczki celebrations and sales here doubled this year with the addition of Kroger Co. stores in the area.

The company sent a representative to the second Annual Paczki Celebration here at Fountain Square where local officials, an NFL football player and a team of ice skaters helped kick off the media event designed to call attention to the rich pre-Lenten treats. Pronounced poonch-key, the large filled doughnuts originated in Poland and are traditionally offered on Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent begins. This year Fat Tuesday/Paczki Day was Feb. 20. More than 200 Greater Cincinnati Area bakeries, in-store and independent, jumped on the bandwagon this year, according to Dennis Smith, a member of the National Paczki Promotional Board of the Retailer's Bakery Association, Laurel, Md. The board is headed by Carl Richardson, formerly a bakery executive with Farmer Jack Supermarkets, a Detroit division of Montvale, N.J.-based A&P.

At the Fountain Square celebration, amid strains of the Paczki Polka, Cincinnati Bengals player Bruce Kozerski threw 300 autographed, miniature footballs into the crowd. Featured on the footballs was red lettering with this message: "Paczki. Support your local retail baker." As part of the activities expected to generate sales, other volunteers distributed more than 2,000 fresh baked paczki. At press time, Kroger Co. officials could not be reached for comment on their sales. But others, who began offering paczki last year, reported sales were up significantly this year, Richardson said.

Seaway Food Town, Maumee, Ohio, doubled its paczki sales over last year, and ran out by early evening on Paczki Day.

"We sold at least 1,800 cases. We know to order more for next year," said Pat Nowak, director of public relations and consumer affairs for the 44-unit chain.

"You don't make a lot of money on them, but they create excitement and probably bring some people into the bakery who haven't shopped it before," she added.

The mission of the RBA promotional board, with the help of affiliates such as the Cincinnati Paczki Committee, is to broaden awareness of paczki and to make Paczki Day a seasonal selling opportunity for bakeries nationwide. In Michigan, where the metro-Detroit baker's association has actively promoted paczki for years, the pre-Lenten treats account for $10 million in extra sales during the month of February, Richardson said. Media attention this year helped boost sales there by 10% to 15% over last year, he noted.