FOOD EMPORIUM TO ROLL OUT ECCE PANIS LOAVES

BRONX, N.Y. -- Food Emporium, a division of A&P, Montvale, N.J., will roll out Ecce Panis artisan breads to most of it units by Thanksgiving, officials said.After an initial test at its newest store on Manhattan's upper East Side last month, the branded, upscale breads were quickly added in seven other units. Now, the division expects to have the breads in all 25 units that have service bakeries in

BRONX, N.Y. -- Food Emporium, a division of A&P, Montvale, N.J., will roll out Ecce Panis artisan breads to most of it units by Thanksgiving, officials said.

After an initial test at its newest store on Manhattan's upper East Side last month, the branded, upscale breads were quickly added in seven other units. Now, the division expects to have the breads in all 25 units that have service bakeries in time to kick off the holiday season, officials said.

"I want to have their breads in those stores by Thanksgiving and then we'll expand that to 30 [stores] within the next four months," said Bob Damato, director of bakery and deli operations for the 36-unit division.

The branded, upscale breads -- which have become well known to New Yorkers via Ecce Panis' five freestanding retail bakery stores in Manhattan -- will be merchandised in more than one place in the store, Damato said.

"Where we have service bakeries, the breads will be sold at a section of the counter devoted to Ecce Panis. The loaves will be displayed unwrapped under glass," he said. He explained also that Ecce Panis, in addition to delivering several varieties of fresh-baked loaves each day, offers its artisan breads presliced and packaged. Those packaged loaves, along with Ecce Panis biscotti and gourmet bread crumbs, will be available self-service in stores without a service bakery and also in other parts of the stores that do have a service bakery, Damato said.

"Even where we have service bakeries, I want to offer them in the deli also. We'll put them on top of the deli case. I think [the program] is going to get off to a good start," he said.

The rollout, which began last week, will be accompanied by radio advertising. Food Emporium already has spot jingle ads on metro-area radio stations; to those ads, a tag line will be added that tells consumers they can get Ecce Panis bread at Food Emporium, Damato noted.

"We think this is going to be a success because Ecce Panis is aggressive and committed to making this work. They're providing good signage. They'll have colorful signs hanging off the ceiling and in the front window. The company also helps us with sampling, and they're in the stores working with our people," he said.

Food Emporium carries eight varieties of Ecce Panis bread and is looking to increase that variety to at least 12. At this time, baguettes are the best sellers at Food Emporium, according to Damato.

"They have other terrific breads I think will do very well once people get familiar with them. Like their pecan-raisin bread. That's a dessert bread. You can spread a little cheese on it. It's more for dessert or a snack than to eat with a meal," Damato added.

Damato said Ecce Panis, which has its production facility in Carlstadt, N.J., is in the process of reducing the size of its pecan-raisin loaf so it can be offered at a lower retail price.

In some Food Emporium units, another branded bread -- Bread Ventures -- is offered at the bakery service counter. It will stay.

"[Bread Ventures' items] are all sourdough-based. Adding Ecce Panis enables us to offer our customers more variety," he noted.

Ecce Panis breads made a name for themselves at Sign of the Dove, a top Manhattan restaurant. The all-natural, fresh-baked breads gathered a following there and, after the restaurant closed, its owners set up an Ecce Panis retail bakery in the same spot. Later, four more retail locations were added.

Brands such as Ecce Panis fit right into Food Emporium's strategy of maintaining an upscale, quality image to set itself apart from the competition, Damato said. Other brands in Food Emporium's bakeries include Boston Brownies, which gained renown for their taste and quality at a Boston retail shop.