ISB STRATEGIES HINGE ON FRESHNESS FACTOR

BOSTON (FNS) -- Freshness is cited most often as the reason for repeat sales in the in-store bakery, though how customers define "fresh" varies, according to an industry consultant speaking at the 2001 Annual Conference & Exposition of the NorthEast Fresh Foods Alliance.Brian Salus, president of Salus & Associates, Richmond, Va., videotaped several consumers talking about freshness:"One day old is

BOSTON (FNS) -- Freshness is cited most often as the reason for repeat sales in the in-store bakery, though how customers define "fresh" varies, according to an industry consultant speaking at the 2001 Annual Conference & Exposition of the NorthEast Fresh Foods Alliance.

Brian Salus, president of Salus & Associates, Richmond, Va., videotaped several consumers talking about freshness:

"One day old is fresh," one man said.

"Two days," said a female customer.

"Fresh is something you can't measure," a third customer observed.

"I might have to get back to you on that," said the final interviewee.

Customers may not be able to describe fresh, but they know fresh by taste, and they vote with their pocketbooks and wallets, Salus noted.

How can an ISB satisfy these variable freshness demands? Part of the solution is to determine the proper mix of from-scratch, frozen parbaked, frozen thaw-and-sell and fully baked items, and the best sources for those goods, he said.

Stores can choose one of these options, or they can mix and match, but any decisions should be based on a realistic assessment of the bakery's space, equipment and personnel.

"If you're having a serious labor shortage, don't bake everything from scratch and do it poorly," Salus said.

Bringing in a third-party supplier may be the answer for a store with very little or no space for a bakery.

"It's great for the retailer with little expertise and limited space," Salus said, describing the self-contained work stations and cases used by sushi concepts.

"It's movable, and the supplier provides trained workers and raw materials," Salus noted. "The retailer provides fixtures and utilities."

Sales volumes in particular ISB categories also need to be carefully examined to determine the best supply option. Salus said retailers should look carefully at the product lines and choose those with the biggest market.

"If you are selling 20 doughnuts a day, maybe you should think of discontinuing the doughnuts or bringing a doughnut vendor in," Salus said.

"You need to know what the costs are. You need to know about third party suppliers and second sources. You need to know what sells," he stressed.

Regardless of product, one thing all bakers should know is that people salivate over cinnamon and chocolate, said Salus, a former director of food services for Ukrops Super Markets in Richmond, Va. He cited statistics showing that people now eat five daily meals -- breakfast, break, lunch, break and dinner. Products with maximum impact on the senses can be targeted toward one of these dayparts.

"A bakery should be a 24-hour operation," he said.