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The quest for healthier foods is having a positive impact on kitchen gadget sales at supermarkets and is offering retailers greater cross-promotional opportunities.Shoppers looking for implements that withstand the high temperatures of stir-frying and other typesof healthy cooking are turning to more upscale products. This trend may have helped contribute to an 11% increase in sales in the $304 million

The quest for healthier foods is having a positive impact on kitchen gadget sales at supermarkets and is offering retailers greater cross-promotional opportunities.

Shoppers looking for implements that withstand the high temperatures of stir-frying and other types

of healthy cooking are turning to more upscale products. This trend may have helped contribute to an 11% increase in sales in the $304 million kitchen gadget and tool category, according to Home Furnishings Network's 1994 State of the Industry Report. Fairchild Publications publishes both SN and HFN. "People are cooking more with broths and wine at higher temperatures, so they need tools that withstand the higher temperatures without melting," said Dan Van Zant, supervisor and buyer for general merchandise and health and beauty care at Ray's Food Place, Brookings, Ore.

Bradshaw International, Santa Fe Springs, Calif., even plans to launch a new line of gadgets under its Good Cook Hi Temp label. The line will include spatulas, spoons, forks and similar tools, and is slated for test-marketing in September, according to Mike McLaughlin, vice president of marketing. The new products "are more durable and suitable for cooking at higher temperatures, which will help drive sales," he said. Retails will come in somewhere in the $1.99 to $2.49 price range, McLaughlin added. A company source at Hannaford Bros., Scarborough, Maine, who asked to remain anonymous, said, "People are on a health kick and are eating more seafood and fresh produce. This creates opportunities to cross-merchandise gadgets in these departments."

Ray's Food Place features an upscale kitchen gadget and tool line merchandised near ethnic grocery products. The mix, which carries $3 to $16 price points, features items durable enough to withstand high temperatures, Van Zant said.

"The Ekco Best Results upgraded line at three stores in 120 stockkeeping units is priced about 20% higher than our other gadgets, and has improved our overall gadgets mix," Van Zant said.

Retailers polled by SN said they are taking advantage of the popularity of fresh foods to cross-merchandise appropriate gadgets.

Strack & Van Til Supermarkets, Schererville, Ind., is cross-merchandising gadgets priced at 99 cents to $4.99 in several grocery sections, including produce and dairy, according to Joe Kolavo, general merchandise and HBC buyer-supervisor.

"Red meat sales are down, poultry sales are up, and people are coming to the produce department. We want to have the kind of gadgets that go along with foods in those areas," Kolavo said. "This brings us extra sales that we'd otherwise miss." The added exposure from these cross-merchandising efforts helps draw attention to kitchen tools and implements, and brings new housewares shelf turns at produce, meat, dairy, seafood and specialty grocery, retailers added. Ray's Food Place plans to test a new spinner rack of gadgets -- including potato peelers and apple corers -- chosen especially for the produce department. The fixture is slated for one or two pilot stores this fall, with $1.99 to $4.99 price points and 38% to 42% margins, similar to other gadgets in the store. "The Ekco display will offer 16 different products not carried in the regular in-line gadgets department," Van Zant of Ray's said. "They'll contain a new mix rotated every so often, and will be maintained by the general merchandise clerk." Once the program has proven itself, Ray's will roll it into other stores. The key to cross-merchandising gadgets is not overdoing it, especially in produce, Kolavo of Strack & Van Til said. "There is a fine line between merchandising and clutter, which you want to avoid," he said. To keep its gadgets mix neat, Strack & Van Til has put up power wings and panels with some gadgets.

Jitney Jungle Stores of America, Jackson, Miss., has started a renewed effort to cross-merchandise kitchen gadgets at fresh food sections in 10 to 12 of its larger stores, according to Allen Booth, assistant director of general merchandise and HBC.

"We've set up, where space permits, freestanding floor stands with tongs, skewers and lobster crackers at the seafood department; knives at service meat counters, and corn holders, grapefruit knives and peelers in the produce department," Booth said.

The cross-merchandised selections usually duplicate in-line items "to capture extra impulse sales. A customer may not always visit the gadget section, but if they see a tool while buying fresh fish or produce, there's a greater likelihood of purchase," he added.

Genuardi's Family Markets, Norristown, Pa., is getting more aggressive with cross-merchandising kitchen utensils, said Jack Mahon, category manager for general merchandise. "You can sell gadgets year-round using in-and-out shippers, power panels and floor stands at produce, with salad spinners and various items from Pyrex, Bradshaw, and Ekco," Mahon said. Hannaford Bros. is cross-merchandising gadgets in areas such as produce and seafood to capture higher impulse sales, the company source said.

Cross-merchandising small gadgets with food -- for example, apple corers with apples -- creates the synergy for multiple sales at 105-unit Brookshire Grocery Co., Tyler, Texas. "You get a twofold effect," said Jerry Moore, category manager for gadgets. Among its other cross-promotions, Brookshire places crab crackers near seafood cases. "If you have increased sales and traffic in fresh and other types of foods, including gourmet and specialty products, you increase the opportunity for selling more gadgets," Moore stressed. Jons Markets, Los Angeles, sees more opportunity to cross-merchandise kitchen gadgets in the store, especially in produce, according to Wanda Lovelace, promotion and allowance coordinator. "Although we lack the space for a lot of added gadgets in produce beyond those that are J-hooked above counters, key items like corn holders are put up when corn is promoted," she said.

At Community Cash Stores, Spartanburg, S.C., J-hooking some 30 to 40 tie-in items priced under $5 -- such as paring knives in produce, shrimp deveiners at the seafood department, and steak knives and tenderizer tools in the meat section -- stimulates impulse kitchen gadgets movement, said Jim Key, nonfood direct-store buyer.