Photo by Jenna Telesca

Photo by Jenna Telesca

On the Go: In-Store Bakeries Cater to Customers

In-store bakeries must be in tune with customer needs when it comes to determining behind-the-case and grab-and-go offerings

Each November, the Dia de Los Muertos celebration is a chance for Northgate Gonzalez Market to showcase the in-store bakery’s specialty grab-and-go items.

The Anaheim, Calif.-based chain with a large Hispanic clientele builds large displays with traditional treats. The displays include items like sugar skulls, which are handmade and brought in from Mexico City, and pan de muerto, along with other food and nonfood products associated with the Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration.

“We try to do that for every holiday like for Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Christmas and el Dia de Los Reyes [Three Kings Day] for our king’s bread,” said Manuel Gonzalez, Northgate’s bakery director.

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While such seasonal displays may draw attention to the in-store bakery, retailers should be mindful of the department at all times, according to Jonna Parker, an in-store bakery specialist at Nielsen Perishables Group, who called bakeries “an image-builder for the entire store.”

“Even if consumers aren’t stopping in the bakery and making a purchase on every single trip, based on their position at most grocery stores, they’re walking right through it. And it’s one of those departments that help that perception even if it doesn’t always make it in the basket,” said Parker.


Retailers should make decisions about what bakery products to keep behind the counter and which to put out as grab-and-go with that in mind, Parker said. She suggested the items that go behind the glass should be the best looking and the ones that retailers want customers to remember, even if they aren’t the fastest turning or the most profitable.

“And then I think some of the other categories or products to put as ... grab-and-go are the ones you do want to build quick turns, and certainly the ones you want to gain those incremental impulse purchases,” said Parker.

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Grab-and-go items should definitely be available in high traffic areas of the bakery department and even elsewhere in the store where customers might be induced to drop them in their baskets, Parker added.

At A&P [4], based in Montvale, N.J., customers can find dessert and specialty cakes as well as single-serving cupcakes and Italian desserts behind the glass.

“Our signature, premium and specialty products are positioned behind the counter for personalized service,” said Nancy Gaddy, vice president of deli and bakery.

In contrast, A&P uses the grab-and-go cases to highlight “core items” like doughnuts, muffins, rolls and bagels, alongside packaged bread and dessert items.

Grab-and-Go Convenience

Rather than split up the department by product type, Bashas’ [5], Chandler, Ariz., tries to appeal to customer needs by offering most of the same bakery items as grab-and-go as are available behind the counter. These products include doughnuts, cookies, pastries and cake.

“Our grab-and-go cases provide the same variety as our full-service cases do, as some customers prefer full-service while others enjoy the convenience of a grab-and-go option,” said Kristy Jozwiak, director of communications and public affairs.

Many of the retailer’s bakeries have been adding self-service doughnut cases, which also can contain muffins, pastries and cookies.

According to a recent report on “Consumer Shopping Dynamics: The Decision Tree” by the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association, 58% of customers don’t decide to visit the bakery until after they have arrived at the grocery store. IDDBA education information specialist Alan Hiebert told SN having a variety of grab-and-go options might appeal to those customers and induce impulse purchases.

For Northgate, the grab-and-go section is all about convenience.

“Northgate understands the customer’s busy schedule which encourages us to offer only self-service sweet bread,” said Gonzalez. The retailer sells over 72 types of sweet breads and pastries in self-serve bakery towers, including puerquitos (pig cookies), conchas (Mexican sweet bread) and empanadas.

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Gonzalez said increasing variety was also important. “We have strived to offer a wider selection. We’ve recently added chorriadas [a traditional bread from Michoacan, Mexico], marble ring cakes and a selection of packaged mini bread.”

While the IDDBA’s research showed having a wide variety of grab-and-go items positively influenced consumers’ opinions of an in-store bakery, a knowledgeable and friendly bakery staff ranked higher in importance. Hiebert said this could indicate customers are looking for more guidance from bakery workers and might even prefer purchasing from the service case.

A&P has “always placed an emphasis on the service case,” Gaddy said. “Our focus is to highlight the products that show a distinct point of difference from other bake shops.”

When deciding what to offer behind the counter and as grab-and-go, retailers should also consider that customers have changed when they shop in the bakery department.

According to research by Nielsen Perishables Group, one-third of in-store bakery sales now happen after 5 p.m. Parker suggested that that proportion could be even higher since the research didn’t track when customers were looking for items in the bakery, just what they actually purchased.

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Parker said it is important for bakeries to think about what products their customers want during the evening hours and make sure those items will be available.

“I think it just comes to thinking about what product is right for that day part and also realizing that that is a store traffic pattern. So maybe it isn’t even so much about making sure someone’s baking behind the scenes at 5 p.m. or later, but just ensuring that the product that someone’s looking for at that time is on shelf,” said Parker.

Bashas’ is one retailer that has adapted to this trend, adjusting for what Jozwiak called the “supper rush.” She said staff are available both behind the counter and at the grab-and-go cases as long as the bakery is open.

“The bakery closes between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. If it is summertime or the holidays, we stay open later. If the store does more volume, the bakery stays open later,” said Jozwiak.

Northgate also keeps bakeries open late, until 10 p.m. “It’s always been that way. We provided extensive schedules in every perishable departments,” said Gonzalez.

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