WEST POINT MAKES BISCOTTI SALES HOT

AKRON, Ohio -- West Point Market here has livened up summer sales of a biscotti product that was expected to do best in the dead of winter.The single-unit, upscale retailer decided to put its own fudge biscotti in summer dress after Abby Fox, director of bakery operations, realized that customers were thinking of the product only as something you dip in hot chocolate or mulled cider. Fox set out to

AKRON, Ohio -- West Point Market here has livened up summer sales of a biscotti product that was expected to do best in the dead of winter.

The single-unit, upscale retailer decided to put its own fudge biscotti in summer dress after Abby Fox, director of bakery operations, realized that customers were thinking of the product only as something you dip in hot chocolate or mulled cider. Fox set out to dispel that perception, and she said the store has since had better volume for the cookies, even through the heat of summer.

"Sales actually weren't down this summer, but enthusiasm was waning a little," Fox said of the store's biscotti volume.

"These biscotti taste great with ice cream, but people wouldn't necessarily think about that," she explained.

To help educate shoppers about the notion of combining the two treats, West Point gave its store-made biscotti a new name, "fudgy dunkers," and created a new combination item, called a fudgy dunker sundae. West Point introduced the sundaes at a nearby Chocolate Festival, sponsored by local women's groups as a charity fund-raiser.

For a 50-cent charitable donation, people got a sundae that consisted of vanilla ice cream, raspberry sauce, and a piece of fudgy dunker, along with a three-ounce cup of coffee.

"The sundaes were such a hit that the supply was running out," Fox said.

The retailer also inserted information about fudgy dunkers, including summer serving suggestions, in its in-store consumer newsletter in July.

"These Fudgy Dunkers are crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle. They are made with dark cocoa, toasted pecans and huge chunks of Belgium Callebaut chocolate. The price: $5.29 a pound," the newsletter said. Fox said that $5.29 is the everyday price for biscotti.

The fudgy biscotti, which are made in-store from Fox's formulation, had joined West Point's roster of at least 11 signature bakery items just before Valentine's Day.

Fox said that the biscotti have been such good sellers that West Point will add other new versions of the product, such as a variety designed to go with morning coffee.

"Maybe macadamia nut or cinnamon walnut. A buttery version, like a blondie," she said.

The retailer also offers pre-packaged, commercially made biscotti in its bakery, in three flavors: chocolate with chocolate dip, plain almond, and almond with chocolate dip.

"But they're crunchy all the way through. We wanted to create a biscotti that was somewhat like a brownie," Fox explained, "crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside."

Now, the fudgy dunkers are outselling the commercial varieties of biscotti that West Point also sells. The profit margin for the in-store fresh product is on par with that of the commercial variety, Fox noted.

Pound for pound, the retail prices for the store-baked biscotti and for the commercial product are within pennies of each other. "And the mark-up is not as big on the commercial biscotti," she said.

"Even with labor figured in, we make about the same amount of money [on the two types of biscotti.] With the store-made, I don't have to worry about shipping shrink or freight costs and we can make just what we estimate we'll need."