FULL HOUSE

LAS VEGAS -- Odds were good that the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association's Show & Sell Center would be a winner again this year, and it was.New themes that jibe with fast-growing, national trends hit the jackpot when it came to attracting attention. One such display was an entire bakery case featuring Hispanic bakery products. Suggestions and ideas were provided to retailers in little, wallet-sized

LAS VEGAS -- Odds were good that the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association's Show & Sell Center would be a winner again this year, and it was.

New themes that jibe with fast-growing, national trends hit the jackpot when it came to attracting attention. One such display was an entire bakery case featuring Hispanic bakery products. Suggestions and ideas were provided to retailers in little, wallet-sized menus that could be picked up in the display area.

It's not hard to see why the Show & Sell Center is a major attraction at IDDBA's annual Dairy-Deli-Bake seminar and expo. A team of retailers and suppliers recruited by Carol Christison, IDDBA's executive director, presented real-life merchandising ideas that can be easily transferred to any retail operation.

"What people tell us they like most about Show & Sell is that they can leverage our ideas, using what they've already got. They see how they can take their current products, equipment and people, and create more excitement with not much added expense -- just a new spark, a new twist," Christison said.

One retailer, whose specialty is cake decorating, told SN she was particularly interested in the creative specialty cakes, such as a Cat in the Hat cake. But there are workable ideas from each of the Show & Sell stations, she said.

"I took 11 rolls of film, if that's any indication of what I think about the value of this [Show & Sell Center]. This is the third year we've come," said Nyla Stromberg, cake department manager/decorator, at seven-unit Marketplace Foods & Drug, Minot, N.D. "You have to get off the block and check things like this out. If you can pull just a few things out and bring them back, it's well worth it."

Stromberg said she enjoyed watching the hands-on IDDBA Cake Decorating Challenge in progress in the Show & Sell Center, too. The first time Stromberg attended a Dairy-Deli-Bake show was eight years ago when she was one of the Cake Decorating Challenge's finalists. That was in Minneapolis where she walked away with second place. Another retailer said he picked up a number of ideas he can use to merchandise prepared foods.

"I saw a lot of new ways to add value for the consumer, especially in the grab-and-go case. We're in a fairly conservative area, in a town of no more than fifty thousand, but nonetheless, we're getting more demand for what you call 'home meal replacement.' There's no doubt that that will just get bigger and bigger," said Jim Kraning, owner of K&B Kwik Stop, Pocatello, Idaho. His convenience stores are supplied by Associated Foods, Salt Lake City.

One example of a put-together, self-service item all ready for making a meal was a display of "Pick a Winner" pizza kits. A ball of pizza dough was packed in a container with a smaller container of pizza sauce and a bunch of mini containers with such things as pepperoni slices, bacon bits, red onions, black olives and mushrooms. The only ingredient yet to be added was the customer's ingenuity in combining toppings.

In keeping with the theme of Las Vegas entertainment and gambling, a sandwich display featured one combo called "Full House," with pot roast, smoked gouda, tomatoes and fresh basil leaves on a baguette. Another one with interesting ingredients was called "Royal Flush." Then there was an expanse of interesting-looking "Topless Sandwiches."

In Show & Sell's Cheezer's Palace section, a take-off on Las Vegas' Caesar's Palace Hotel, a variety of cheeses was brought together on "cheese plates." This idea is very popular in Europe, Show & Sell staff explained to people visiting the displays. A printed, wallet-sized wine and cheese guide available for take-home pointed out the value of placing three or four varieties of cheeses on an overwrapped plate, a miniature cutting board, or a decorative tray.

"Perfect for a 'fourth course' for dinner, a picnic, or a hostess gift. Cross-merchandise with wine, fruit and crackers, and you have a complete cheese party," the guide says.

Instituting a "cheese trolley" was another suggestion offered. Generally found in fine-dining restaurants, the idea could be utilized in a supermarket's cheese or deli department.

Several varieties of cheeses are displayed under a single large dome or several smaller ones. In the supermarket, the retailer could place the cheese display/samples on the top of the trolley and have prepackaged pound and half-pound cuts in a refrigerated or iced tub underneath. So, if the customer likes the sample, he can be offered a package right there, the Show & Sell's guide advised.

"That's an example of just bringing things together. So are all our displays. That's what we did with the Hispanic bakery case -- brought all the Hispanic products together and added a touch of creativity. Not a big expense, but it sells more product. And that ultimately is our job -- to help our retailers gain a bigger share of the market," IDDBA's Christison said.

"Everything here is themed," she explained, as she showed the various ways products were organized in the Show & Sell Center to make customers aware of the number of choices available to them in a particular category.

For instance, in the deli case, and in one of the Show & Sell handouts, there was a whole section for the dieting customer. Within that section, products were organized by three of the most popular diets: the Atkins, the Zone and Weight Watchers. Appropriate products were displayed under each sign.

Cross-merchandising, too, played a starring role at Show & Sell, and it didn't stop at putting products together in a display case. Cheese tastings, featuring a cheese of the day or week or month is suggested, and Show & Sellers advised retailers to tell customers what wines pair well with it.

"Consumers are looking for ways to demonstrate their culinary knowledge. So if you teach them about a cheese that's new to them, they'll teach someone else [and buy more in the process]," Christison said.

Each year for the past three years, IDDBA has given visitors to the Show & Sell Center a resource book that describes the Center's various displays; features detailed planograms; and even notes the dimensions and model numbers of display cases used and sources of products and props.

This year, in addition, the resource book included a full-page glossary of Hispanic bakery products, and a page that listed not-so-familiar "special occasion" days such as First Man on the Moon Day and Elvis Presley's birthday. The idea was to build themed displays around those things the competition might not think of.

It's apparent that a tremendous amount of planning goes into Show & Sell, and that planning gets under way months ahead of time.

"It's like a store opening. Without the planning, it isn't going to happen. And it wouldn't happen without our volunteers. The planning starts in January and then Cristie Jacobs, our Show & Sell coordinator, actually starts things off," Christison said. "After the themes are chosen and the planning committee has decided what cases and props and even the product ingredients it will need, Cristie consolidates the orders," Christison said.

WINNING NUMBERS

The International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association racked up record numbers of registrants, exhibitors and new-product contest entries at its Dairy-Deli-Bake 2003 seminar and expo.

With the number of registrants for the annual event hitting 8,100, attendance topped last year's by nearly 19%, hitting an all-time record. Also, 536 exhibitors occupying 1,275 booths topped previous totals. The number of booths exceeded last year's by at least 125, officials said.

Not only that, but manufacturers entered a total of 200 items in IDDBA's annual new-product contest. IDDBA's Executive Director Carol Christison presented the awards at the Show & Sell Center on the last day of the event.

Dawn Food Products, Jackson, Mich., received the Best of Bakery award for its filled-base, iced cakes with raspberry filling and vanilla Velvatop non-dairy icing. Best of Deli went to Calzone & Co., Redmond, Wash., for its "Quesabakes" -- a grilled chicken, Mexican-style sandwich. Best of Dairy went to Cabot Cooperative Creamery, Montpelier, Vt., for its chipotle cheddar cheese with smoked jalapeno.

Of all the 200 items entered in the contest, attendee-voters deemed Fun-Fresh Concepts, Wheeling, Ill., Best of Show for its "Deli Dashers," which are portable cups of refrigerated pasta.

"And that's just the products entered in the contest. We know that among all the manufacturers exhibiting, there were around 800 new products shown," said Christison.