ORLANDO, Fla. - The Show & Sell Merchandising Center resembled a circus at the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery's trade show here.
With startling colors, clown-faced cakes, side show sandwiches, the Flying Tra-Pizza and lots of activity, all that was missing from the center were a two-headed bear and a carful of clowns.
Billed as the Greatest Food Show on Earth, the merchandising center served as a showcase for innovative displays of fresh baked goods and deli foods.
"There's eye appeal all over the board," said Mark Bihun, bakery director for Sprouts Markets, Phoenix. "Like those huge, piled-up, artisan bread displays, and the display cases themselves are great looking. I've definitely got some ideas to take back."
Other retailers told SN they liked all the examples of theme merchandising.
For instance, Rudy Chavez, director of prepared foods at Lazy Acres Markets, Santa Barbara, Calif., was impressed with the African Taste Safari case. Not only did it show off interesting entrees such as South African Malay curry, slaphakseentjies and Algerian couscous, but the colorful, pottery-look platters and bowls added extra panache, Chavez said.
"We're starting to use some of those solid-colored, medium-shade bowls and platters," he said. "Rather than floral pottery, these carry through a sleek look. It's the food that stands out."
Chavez, visiting Show & Sell for the first time, took note of the carved, wooden product card holders in the shape of giraffes, elephants and other jungle animals. The small but eye-catching items could be used to build a knockout display, he said.
Other visitors also remarked on the "clean lines" of the display cases from Barker Co., Keosauqua, Iowa, a regular sponsor of the Show & Sell Center. In addition to offering the use of its cases, Barker also gets involved in creating the displays. A co-sponsor, Harrison, Ohio-based Hubert Co., offers props and small fixtures that are used in every section of the merchandising area. Employees also pitch in to build the displays.
Every year, under the direction of Carol Christison, IDDBA's executive director, volunteers from the food industry come up with new ideas that are usually based on a theme and specifically designed to give retailers ideas they can bring back to their stores. Visitors are encouraged to take photos.
SN observed attendees doing just that. Carolina Ferraro, representing a Costa Rica-based distributor, photographed a cheese display and panini platters. A retailer, Maria Ferrer, from Village CafT, Sarasota, Fla., snapped a photo of Melissa Caville of Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle Supermarkets putting the finishing touches on her wedding cake entry in IDDBA's 11th Annual Cake Decorating Challenge. The contest, featuring three finalists selected from a pool of 74 supermarket cake decorators who entered the preliminaries, was one of the main attractions in the Show & Sell Center.
This year's displays played to convenience and emerging trends while keeping up the circus theme.
For instance, fresh fruits were displayed creatively in small containers, sometimes made from a part of the fruit. But the big selling point was that the attractive, individual desserts were ready-to-go. One eye-catching concoction, called Tropical Circus, consisted of fruits such as mango, pineapple and kiwi, cubed and placed in a half coconut shell with mint leaf garnishes.
In the Carousel Cake Case, three- and four-layer cakes were displayed with a wedge of the same type of cake laid on its side in front of each whole cake to give visitors a view of the inside layers. The next section of the case displayed a variety of colorfully decorated, 5-inch round cakes, a size increasingly popular with consumers, retailers have told SN recently.
A huge, over-the-top display of cheese could have been featured in the circus's center ring.
With a nod to growing interest in ethnic foods, the meals team, made up of volunteer retailers, manufacturers and other industry professionals, created a long case filled with tempting items under such banners as A Passage to Indian Cuisine, Caribbean Island Delights, United King Dome of Taste, and A Taste of Tuscany.
Four teams of volunteers, each concentrating on either deli, meals, cheese or bakery, were assembled early in the year to create the mock-up merchandising center. The effort attracts many volunteers who return year after year, often using their vacation time to do so, Christison said.
"When you consider that the Show & Sell Center is created by more than 50 volunteers who devote several weekends and many more planning hours to create the themes and product displays, you get a glimmer of what it takes to pull it together," Christison said. "The objective is to show how to do 'total store selling' by creating themes and ideas that capture the imagination [and appeal to the taste buds] of the consumer," she said.
Retailers involved this year included Isabel Fischer, Coburn's; Scott Fox, Dorothy Lane Market; John Countey, Spiegelhoff's Super Food Market; and Bessie Dicks, Shoppers Food & Pharmacy.