RETAILER DOUBLES GOURMET CAKE SALES AMID LOW-CARB CRAZE

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine -- Bakery officials at Graves' Supermarkets did not let the gloomy news about slumping bakery sales stop them from being proactive in marketing their gourmet cake line.The recipe for success involved building bigger displays of the upscale, frozen cakes, increasing demos to almost every weekend, and creating a "sampler" cake with slices of different varieties.The bakeries at Graves'

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine -- Bakery officials at Graves' Supermarkets did not let the gloomy news about slumping bakery sales stop them from being proactive in marketing their gourmet cake line.

The recipe for success involved building bigger displays of the upscale, frozen cakes, increasing demos to almost every weekend, and creating a "sampler" cake with slices of different varieties.

The bakeries at Graves' stores, like many bakeries around the country, have been hurt by the popularity of low-carb dieting. Nevertheless, the upscale cake line is a money-maker. Cake sales have doubled in the last year, said Charlie Beck, store manager at the five-unit, family-owned independent's flagship store here.

What's more, putting the fancy cake line in the spotlight has had a positive effect on overall bakery sales, Beck said.

"Total sales [in the ISB] are off from this time last year, but those cakes are doing very well, and our whoopie pies and spice cake that we make from scratch are doing OK, too," he said. "Things could have been worse. A friendly associate demoing top-quality cake gets customers to stop, look over the case, and maybe see other items, too."

While the ISB had been having demos for a while, it was just this summer that it put together the "sampler" cake.

"Nobody else is doing that with this line," Beck said. "We cut cakes up, putting different slices together, actually building a 10-inch cake with some variety. I had observed that people couldn't decide which one they wanted, or they were hesitant to buy an expensive cake that maybe not everybody at home would like. Not everybody is a chocolate lover, and there are seven excellent varieties."

The retail: $12.99. A "Party for Two" pack in a wedge-shaped container presents two slices for $2.99.

Even white bread at Graves' ISB survived the low-carb onslaught. Nobody stopped buying bake-off white bread, hot at 4 o'clock, Beck said. He has a theory about why those sales held steady. Maybe because the bread's hot? Or possibly because it's merchandised in crispy paper bags at the rotisserie chicken display as its availability is announced on the public address system.