VG'S UNIT PUTS BRANDED EUROPEAN BREAD PLAN IN THE OVEN

STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. -- VG's Food Centers & Pharmacy, Fenton, Mich., has added a branded, store-baked European bread and bagel line to a store here.The program, called Mein Backerei, is a turnkey system by which retailers can purchase everything from bread mixes and specially designed merchandising bags to ovens, benches, sinks, mixers, dough dividers, bagel kettles, display carts, bins, signage,

STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. -- VG's Food Centers & Pharmacy, Fenton, Mich., has added a branded, store-baked European bread and bagel line to a store here.

The program, called Mein Backerei, is a turnkey system by which retailers can purchase everything from bread mixes and specially designed merchandising bags to ovens, benches, sinks, mixers, dough dividers, bagel kettles, display carts, bins, signage, uniforms, and point-of-sale and other promotional materials.

The various components are manufactured by a variety of vendors and sold and supplied to retailers by baking concern J.W. Allen & Co., Wheeling, Ill.

"I doubt that this program is going to appeal to everybody," said Al Foster, J.W. Allen vice president. "It's designed for the retailer who's interested in developing a more upscale bakery program, who wants to stand out from the competition."

The program focuses on artisan European-style breads, made with "poolish," a soft-dough sponge that is fermented overnight.

The model program, designed by Allen and recently introduced at the Retailer's Bakery Association convention in Chicago, would take up about 1,100 square feet of retail floor space and cost about $100,000. But few retailers are likely to buy an entire bakery operation, Foster admitted, and some retailers are expressing interest only in the bread mixes. Others are considering adding either the bread or bagel lines, but the most important component of the Mein Backerei program according to Foster is the steam oven, which provides crispy crusts and a chewy crumb.

Officials at VG's did not return calls seeking comment, but a store-level source said the system had just been installed in the Sterling Heights store in mid-May.

The primary bread recipes derived from Allen mixes for the Mein Backerei line are designed for French bread, Italian bread, focaccia, hearth bread, pumpernickel bread, rye bread, sour dough bread and a signature soft wheat bread designed for customizing with cinnamon, golden raisins and walnuts.

Forming the dough into different sizes and shapes, or adding seed and spice mixes, dried fruits and nuts, or any self-customized combination of cheeses, vegetables and seasonings, allows retailers to alter each main bread recipe into a number of other breads.

Allen suggests adapting the artisan French recipe for country French, country raisin or country walnut, for instance, and recommends adding a blend of jalapeno peppers and cheese, olives and crushed black pepper, or sun-dried tomato pesto to increase the variety of focaccias.

The hearth recipe can be adapted for baking batards, Viennese, baguette, ciabatta, petit pain or panini, among other styles, and spice mixes can be ordered for the hearth breads to bake flavored breads.

Suggested retail prices for the breads range from $1.79 for the baguettes and batards to $3.89 per pound for the focaccia and cinnamon walnut raising signature bread.

Breads merchandised in bins have a short shelf life, 12 hours according to Allen, and bagged breads are viable up to 24 hours. Sleek European-style merchandising carts Allen will supply feature gravity-fed tilted shelves, branded plastic film and paper bread bags, and merchandising labels.

The bakery and merchandising equipment for the program comes from Empire Bakery Equipment, Hempstead, N.Y., and other manufacturers. Allen guarantees the equipment and offers help in installation.