SHOW STOPPER

With a team of almost 60 retailers, brokers and manufacturers volunteering time over six months to create the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association's Show & Sell Center, it's no surprise that the pavilion annually showcases some of the most exciting new trends in bakery, deli, prepared foods and cheese merchandising. Retailers say they get enough ideas here to create new programs for months,

With a team of almost 60 retailers, brokers and manufacturers volunteering time over six months to create the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association's Show & Sell Center, it's no surprise that the pavilion annually showcases some of the most exciting new trends in bakery, deli, prepared foods and cheese merchandising.

“Retailers say they get enough ideas here to create new programs for months,” said Carol Christison, executive director of IDDBA.

As usual, many of the ideas were simple and easy to replicate. In one corner of the pavilion, an old commercial-kitchen pot rack had been remade into an attractive bread display. In another area, a table was topped with a pyramid of inexpensive plastic containers filled with fresh-baked cookies, illustrating an easy way to promote the treats in bulk for parties.

But, with almost 30 themed displays — merchandised in cases sponsored by Hussmann and Lowe Refrigeration, and landscaped to the hilt with fixtures and props from co-sponsor the Hubert Co. — there were also plenty of ideas available for closer study.

“At the show, you get to step away from your daily business and limitations, and just think about possibilities,” said Travis Baker, an assistant buyer for Wal-Mart Supercenters, and a member of the deli merchandising team.

A handful of themes emerged across all of the departments. Notably, small indulgences are becoming a more pronounced trend, as health-conscious shoppers seek the same rich flavors without going overboard on calories.

“It was integrated into every area — the move to smaller portion sizes,” said Bob Leuth, business development manager for bakery at Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Supervalu, and a member of the Show & Sell Center's bakery team. “People still want to indulge, but maybe aren't looking for a big portion size.”

In the “French Kiss” themed case, for example, a line of individual crème brûlées in small, red stoneware bowls cut diagonally across the corner of a single tiered case, separating a selection of lemon tarts from a colorful array of mousses in small chocolate cups. Elevated plates displayed other French delicacies, such as an apple gallete and a St. Honoré cake, while arrangements of eclairs, cream puffs, pithiviers, Napoleons, fruit tarts and other pastries combined to make the case appear elegant and visually exciting, despite the absence of props.

“Small portions are hot,” said Scott Fox, bakery director for Dorothy Lane Markets, Dayton, Ohio, and another member of this year's bakery team. “Volume is in small individual pastries,” he added, noting that for shoppers planning a dinner party, individual-size items allow them to select a variety of choices for their guests. He also explained how the case illustrated that individual items help “decorate the case with product instead of a lot of props.”

Smaller-size items also lend themselves to gift-with-purchase promotions, as several displays illustrated. One prepared foods display named “Lagniappe” — a south Louisiana word that means “a little gift” — was filled with soup samplers, small quiches, kabobs and appetizer-sized portions of prawns, oysters au gratin and other New Orleans favorites. With every purchase, customers would get to keep the small dish that these appetizers were served in, explained Benny Morales, who worked with the meals team as a representative from Affiliated Foods, Amarillo, Texas.

“With every purchase, you get a gift,” Morales said. “[Shoppers] will come back to buy more and complete their set.”

The concept was carried over into the bakery area as well. In one display, flamboyantly decorated cupcakes were served in teacups, for example.

“I look at everything as a container,” said Christison. “Cakes in cups are a great gift-with-purchase. And, baby cakes displayed on wine glasses — it raises them up and makes a great presentation.”

Of course, with sweet treats, the product can also stand alone as a gift. One simple tabletop display that seemed to be attracting a lot of attention at the show featured a selection of cupcakes in plastic corsage boxes, with a small card attached.

SPEED BUMPS

With every good display, the goal is to make shoppers take another look, explained Leuth. “We call it the ‘speed bump’ effect,” he said. “You get shoppers to slow down.”

As an example, he pointed to “The Cheese Apprentice” display case, where a Donald Trump action figure sat on a block of cheddar engraved with the words “You're Fired.” The case was filled with a selection of blues, bries, parmesans, goudas and havartis, and many show attendees were indeed stopping for a moment to laugh at the Trump doll.

“Something like that will do it,” Leuth said.

A nearby Mardi Gras king cake display made more elaborate use of props. There, feathered masquerade masks and colorful beads accented a three-tiered display where a variety of cupcakes, cookies and sheet cakes were all brightly decorated with yellow, purple and green icing and sprinkles. A giant 16-foot king cake wrapped around the lowest tier of the display case, while boxed king cakes were merchandised on a table nearby.

“Sometimes, you need to create the holiday,” Fox explained. The “Party Gras” themed case was chosen for this year's IDDBA show due to its location in New Orleans, but Fox said Dorothy Lane's bakeries have enjoyed a steady growth in sales of king cakes every February since eight years ago, when the company had a New Orleans baker visit to teach the company how to make the Mardi Gras favorite.

“We get a great ring for that product now,” Fox said.

A sandwich was the star in the deli area's “Party Animals” themed case, where a “snacky snake” grabbed the attention of attendees passing by. It was a simple concept — a precut party sub arranged in sidewinding fashion on the lowest tier of the display case, with olives for eyes and a tiny cut red pepper for a tongue. Those who stopped to take another look saw a selection of sampler platters, cheese and meat kabobs, mini pizzas and more.

“It's party platters in a way that hasn't been seen before,” said chef Jon Gazin, a member of Team Canada for the Show & Sell center. The snake sandwich “would be a hit at any party.”

Gazin also pointed to another great example of visual merchandising in the nearby “Better Living (One Bite at a Time)” themed case. There, amid a variety of better-for-you deli selections — including turkey tacos, prepared whole-grain salads and vegetable medleys — were a selection of sandwiches on whole wheat bread, and pizzas on whole-grain crusts, all cut into heart shapes.

“Having healthier options available in the deli is not a choice anymore — it's become more of a necessity,” noted Gazin, citing the case's variety of kabobs, stuffed pitas and layered salads as other ways retailers can incorporate healthier foods into their deli menu.

GRAB AND GO

The layered salads, displayed in parfait cups, also illustrated a solution for on-the-go shoppers. As Leuth noted, smaller, more portable foods are also a response to another long-term trend — people eating in their cars. “You see in several different areas [of the Show & Sell Center] the attempts to problem-solve for that consumer,” he said.

And, it turns out that quite a lot of salads can fit comfortably in a to-go cup. Everything from vegetable salads to fruit salads to cheese cubes, desserts and Wild Rice Waldorf were on display.

Display case manufacturers have been working to keep up with the trend. Hussmann R-3D cases, for example, were used in both a salad display and a cheese merchandising display. The units feature a full-service case on top and a grab-and-go merchandiser below, allowing staff to interact with shoppers and offer samples, or enabling shoppers to grab product quickly if they're in a hurry.

“Some [retailers] have these types of cases but haven't thought of using them as a salad bar and grab-and-go display,” explained Sonya Heydt, a Supervalu representative for the meals team.

For shoppers willing to spend just a little more time customizing an evening meal, the “Pizzabilities” station offered a new take on a deli-department favorite. Regular take-and-bake pizzas, and plain pizza crusts accompanied with sauce and cheese mixes, were merchandised alongside clamshell containers filled with different toppings, including fresh-cut vegetables, such as bell peppers and onions, and meats, such as pepperoni and precooked chicken. The case also featured an array of popular sides for pizza night, including bread sticks and chicken wings.

The Show & Sell Center was once again one of the most popular areas of this year's IDDBA show, and to help attendees keep track of all the new ideas — and help retailers implement them when they returned to work — IDDBA published a detailed 72-page book featuring diagrams of each of this year's cases.

For the second year, the association has also offered attendees a free CD full of professional photos taken at the pavilion, which arrived in mailboxes several weeks after last year's show.

And, as Fox noted, members of the different merchandising teams were on hand to offer in-depth advice and step-by-step tips each day of the show.

“We try to get [attendees] to realize that with a little bit of effort, these things aren't that difficult,” he said.