more than any other area of the grocery store, the baking products aisle literally takes on the local flavor of any given region.
Traditional regional favorites, old mainstream standbys and new ethnic specialties created by changing area demographics all play a role in the makeup of the products
included in this aisle.
While the items included in the baking aisle can vary, so can the approaches to merchandising and promoting them. What follows is a snapshot of the baking aisle presentations of leading chains in four markets across the country: Los Angeles; Cleveland; Tampa, Fla., and Long Island, N.Y.
Judging from the wide variety of flours, sugars and shortenings that line the baking aisle shelves here, one can tell that scratch baking is still in vogue in this market.
SN surveyed the baking aisles in supermarkets operated by market leaders Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla., and hometown Kash n' Karry Food Stores. Both chains offer almost everything from soup to nuts -- assortments that include cake mixes, baking powders, frostings, puddings, party favors, pots and pans, potato coatings and chopped walnuts.
While both operators have extensive sections prominently merchandised in the center grocery aisles, Publix devotes aisle space to other commodity items such as spices, bread crumbs and potatoes, and up to 8 feet of general merchandise items, including bakeware and percolators. Canning necessities are also merchandised on the aisle.
Publix calls attention to sale items through black, yellow and neon pink Advantage Buy shelf talkers that are prominently displayed throughout the store.
In Tampa, the Dixie Crystals brand of sugar from Savannah Foods & Industries, Savannah, Ga., is the dominant brand, followed closely by private label. While Kash n' Karry merchandises its sugar in bright blue bags, Publix uses a beige color scheme that closely mimics that of Dixie Crystals. In addition to the ubiquitous 5-pound bags, sugar is also available in 2-pound and 10-pound sacks.
Flour is a big seller here. Publix sells six brands of flour merchandised in up to a 16-foot section with 57 facings, including six of Publix private label. Kash n' Karry does not stock as many varieties of flour, devoting up to 36 facings to the category.
Both Kash n' Karry and Publix have extensive cake decorating departments merchandised from peg racks in the middle of the aisles, next to the cake mixes. Publix also sells candles, plates, napkins and party favors, including horns and sunglasses.
In its smaller stores, Kash n' Karry is able to cross-merchandise Durkee baking necessities such as vanilla, lemon extract and food coloring in the aisle through the use of wire shelf extender racks.
On New York's Long Island, a rollout of supermarket bakeries in recent years has quenched many consumers' desires to bake. Yet areas chains like Waldbaum's, Central Islip, N.Y., and King Kullen, Westbury, N.Y., sweeten the baking products aisle's appeal with strong private-label merchandising and a healthy mix of related nonfood items.
In visits to Nassau County stores, SN found that both chains pepper the aisle with shelf tags, many of which promote the store's private label.
King Kullen pushed its store brand with price-comparison tags saying, "King Kullen Brands Cost Less," and posted "Checklist Savings" tags to spotlight items in its flier, which has a shopping-list format. A&P-owned Waldbaum's used "Compare & Save" tags to trumpet America's Choice items. "Now Lower Prices" and "Everyday Low Price" tags, part of a storewide program, denoted discounts on advertised and unadvertised items.
Displayed next to national-brand counterparts, America's Choice and the King Kullen brand hit most key segments in the category, including cake and brownie mixes, frosting, sugar, baking soda, salt, spices, cinnamon, flour and pie filling. Private-label selection and space rose dramatically at newer superstore locations.
America's Choice had noticeably more stockkeeping units and shelf space than the King Kullen brand at stores SN visited. Waldbaum's also offered the upscale Master Choice label in such items as chocolate chips, spices, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla extract.
King Kullen uses metal racks to draw attention to bags of chocolate chips, flaked coconut and chopped walnuts as well as graham pie crusts, which were propped up in the shelf. Commodities like flour and sugar had good visibility at Waldbaum's, which stacked them on shelves at the end of each aisle rather than lining them along the bottom shelf.
Cross-merchandising was prevalent at both chains. In-line pegboard displays and self-contained shelf units highlighted items like birthday candles, sprinkles, candy toppings, cake decorations, foil and paper baking cups, decorative icings, balloons, party favors, disposable tin trays and pans, baking utensils, cookware and plastic containers.
Tortilla flour and the demand for it are major ingredients in baking aisles here.
Corn flour and white flour labeled for tortilla baking to cater to a large Hispanic market were among the items found in stores operated by Ralphs Grocery Co., Compton, Calif., and Vons Cos., Arcadia, Calif., Bread machine mix was on the rise in this market, too. Ralphs stocked about 10 SKUs, while Vons carried about eight. During SN's visit, several Ralphs locations drew customers down the aisle with an endcap display featuring Pillsbury cake and brownie mixes. In the aisle, yellow and red "Smart Coupon" shelf talkers informed shoppers of the savings, which were also advertised in that week's circular.
Ralphs merchandised its baking tins and pans in the baking aisle, but did no other cross-merchandising. The retailer gave additional space to an upscale chocolate morsel line by displaying it on an in-aisle stand. Vons cross-merchandised sparingly. Like Ralphs, the grocer dedicated extra space to a line of baking cups that were displayed in-aisle. Vons also stocks its baking tins and pans in its baking section. The retailer uses more shelf tags than Ralphs to tell consumers about ongoing promotions. "New Item," "Vons Club" and "New Lower Price" tags were seen in the chain's baking aisles.
The identifying characteristic in this market is cross-merchandising. The aisles of supermarkets here featured a wide assortment of products, but no one product category seemed to get more space in one store than others SN visited.
In some of the larger locations operated by Rini-Rego Stop-n-Shop -- corporate stores run by Riser Foods, Bedford Heights, Ohio -- and Finast, Maple Heights, Ohio, shoppers couldn't help but come across items related to those normally found in baking aisles.
Rini-Rego's larger stores devoted shelf space to appliances and the like. "In some of our smaller stores we'll put a couple of these items on displays throughout or on top of the aisle," an associate in one store said.
Cross-merchandising strips featuring products such as yeast were also seen throughout the aisles of Rini-Regos stores.
Finast locations visited by SN put a particular emphasis on cross-merchandising strips, something that surely helps to makeup for the slightly smaller aisles compared to Rini-Rego. Finast, however, has larger aisles than any of the remaining players in the market.