By a landslide, retailers gave this year's Show & Sell Center at the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association's annual seminar and expo in the nation's capital a resounding "yea" vote.
For the last few years, the Show & Sell Center, set up on IDDBA's Dairy-Deli-Bake show floor and staffed by volunteer-retailers and suppliers, has been serving up ideas that can be put to work easily back in supermarket deli, bakery or dairy cases.
This year, the center was steeped in patriotic themes that befit the convention's site at the Washington Convention Center. Against a backdrop of red, white and blue banners, flags and tablecloths, display cases featured the likes of family-sized sandwiches made to look like the American flag, pentagon-shaped cakes and rocket kabobs, all just in time for Fourth of July merchandising.
One retailer told SN she was looking for ideas for holiday displays, particularly for the Fourth, and she said she had found a bunch of them she's going to try.
"I noticed the star-shaped cake, with fondant icing. That's an idea we could use. And that huge sandwich. That's bread dough with red, white and blue coloring. Another one we could do so easily is the hero sandwiches with little American flags stuck on top," said Robyn Perryman, bakery manager, Hart Food & Drug, a four-unit independent in O'Fallon, Ill.
Paulette Stevenson, Hart's deli manager, commented on small sandwiches that were cut in the shape of stars and flags.
"That's quick and simple. You can just use a cookie cutter to do that with soft bread."
Gift boxes in the deli case caught Stevenson's attention, too, and she thought some were worth a try.
The gift boxes represented creative ways to bundle products. For instance, one boxed gift with a cellophane overwrap featured a bottle of Italian wine, a jar of stuffed olives, a loaf of ciabatta, some fresh grapes, a bottle of extra virgin olive oil, a jar of artichoke hearts, a big hunk of Parmesan cheese, a selection of gourmet cookies and an attractive, floral-print tablecloth. That gift box was called, "Under the Tuscan Sun."
Another, called "South Beach Carb-A-Licious," contained Laughing Cow cheese wedges -- specifically mentioned in the South Beach diet book -- a variety of mini- Baby Bels, cheese bits and a bag of pork rinds. Low-carb crackers, a bottle of imported spring water and some suntan lotion completed that one.
Those two gift boxes, as well as eight others, are described in detail in the IDDBA Show & Sell Center Source Book which was given to visitors to the center. The 62-page source book also offers planograms and dimensions of cases and other fixtures.
One retailer told SN she was looking for new equipment and was impressed by Henny Penny's new combi unit in use in the Show & Sell Center.
"This new one is more exact, and pretty much foolproof. It really comes down to one-button electronics," said Jackie Ermola, purchasing manager, at 21-unit Clemens Markets, Kulpsville, Pa.
Ermola also pointed to the use of stainless steel bowls and risers used in the "Embassy Row" case, which spotlighted prepared, ethnic items.
"Those [risers] put things on different levels, and mixing ceramic with stainless looks nice. It really gives retailers an idea of how to make things look interesting," Ermola said.
Long runs of in-line cases were divided into four categories: bakery, meals, cold deli and cheese.
Inside one case in the cheese section, a whole tray was spread with fresh grated Parmesan cheese and pyramid-shaped hunks of Parmesan dotted the "desert" landscape. That was entitled, "Parmesan Pyramids of Giza." In another part of the cheese case, a crockery container held eye-catching kabobs made with wedges of Brie, Baby Bel whole cheeses, strawberries and kumquats.
An island hot case dedicated to ribs and rotisserie turkey and chicken was designated by white, restaurant-style dinner plates set on end on top of it. "Ribs," "turkey" and "chicken" were written on the plates with black grease pencil. The sturdiness of the plates gave the display an air of stability and comfort. At one end of that case, long loaves of French bread were displayed in baskets draped with tea towels that carried an American flag motif. On the other end was an attractive, heavy cardboard merchandiser, displaying paperback issues of the cookbook, "Rotisserie Chicken to the Rescue!" by Carla Fitzgerald Williams.
The book displayed in that manner could eventually get customers walking away with two or three chickens at a time, because it offers interesting ways to serve the birds rather than just plopping the whole thing down in the middle of the table. In fact, the book features 125 recipes using rotisserie chicken as an ingredient in soups, casseroles, salads and other dishes.
Signs were given special attention this year with overhead, mini-billboards designating each section. Incorporating colorful illustrations, they designated "International House of Cheese," "The West Wing," "Buns & Roses," "Space Mission Kids," "Embassy Row" and "United Tastes of America."
IDDBA Executive Director Carol Christison said retailers told her the overhead signs were an important plus this year because they placed the whole area in a framework and pulled the various components together. They made it easy to see that there were major themes and that the displays fit into their respective category.
"I think it made it much easier to understand what we mean when we talk about 'total store' merchandising. Retailers are now willing to be more creative, to go beyond the basic holiday themes. One retailer [from a major chain] told me he had picked up more than a dozen very useable ideas just from the bakery displays. That's why we do this," Christison said.
Christison gave all credit to the Show & Sell Center volunteer team -- made up of retailers and suppliers -- which gets bigger every year.
"It wouldn't happen without them. It's like a store opening. Planning starts months ahead," she said.