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For Three Kings Day, which falls on Jan. 6, Food City sells the customary Rosca de Reyes or King’s Ring, a sweet bread shaped like a wreath.

Building a bakery business for the holidays

In-store bakeries offer a variety of seasonal and holiday treats that go beyond the traditional Christmas favorites

Customers aren’t looking for cupcakes with techno-colored frosting or generic birthday cakes. When in-store bakery shoppers splurge, they want a sophisticated product with limited artificial ingredients, and preferably one with a story to tell. If a bakery can deliver the goods over the holidays when shoppers are more likely to take a chance on the in-store bakery, bakeries can win a regular client in the process.

“As far as stores really trying to showcase their in-store bakery, the holidays are a perfect time because you're going to get those individuals who might not necessarily shop an in-store bakery the rest of the year,” said Eric Richard, the education coordinator at International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA).

Play up the section’s freshness factor, limited ingredient products and items that fit into specific dietary guidelines, such as gluten-free, he said.

Speaking of diets

“An overall general trend within the bakery, and this could be applicable to the holidays as well, is having different size options for today’s consumers,” Richard said. “During the holidays you're going to have people shopping for big get-togethers for their family. They’re going to be looking for the full-sized pies, the full loaves of bread, the big box of cookies or donuts. But the demographics of today’s society are changing, and you’re finding that there are more smaller two-person households than there are larger households. And those individuals are in-store bakery shoppers as well. However, they might be shopping just for them or one or two other people. Offering a different variety of sizes is really, really important these days.”

When customers splurge, they don’t necessarily want the entire pie, even during the holidays.

Customers will find sweets in all sizes at Lucky’s Market. “Not only is the price point on them a little bit more approachable, but it does seem like people with a more health-conscious mind seem to shop stores like Lucky's,” said Joseph Finch, assistant bakery director at Lucky’s. “I think that those smaller sizes are more appealing to them and we do offer a variety of more moderately sized desserts.”

Dorothy Lane Market offers a variety of seasonal and holiday treats throughout the year.

A sweet for every holiday

At Dayton, Ohio-based Dorothy Lane Market, smaller sizes help shoppers get into the holiday spirit, even if it’s the first time they’re celebrating a holiday. For Mardi Gras, Dorothy Lane does brisk businesses selling King Cake. And for those new to the holiday or not ready to go all in on a full cake, the bakery makes a cupcake version. Jennifer Clark, the director of coffee and bakery merchandising for the grocery chain, says there wasn’t much of a market for Mardi Gras-related sweets before they started selling Louisiana-style King Cakes, a sweet brioche topped with glaze and colorful sugar.

“We created that market in Dayton,” she said. “Sometimes you have to create holidays when there are none.”

“Mardi Gras comes at a great time of year. [Customers are] done dieting, maybe they’re going to do a diet for Lent, but around Mardi Gras when it gets cold, it’s a good reason to have a party.”

St. Patrick’s Day is undoubtedly a well-known holiday, but not everyone celebrates with Ireland’s traditional bread. But they do at Dorothy Lane.

“We also created a big business of Irish soda bread for St. Patrick’s Day. We make it all through March," Clark said.

For Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday celebrated from Halloween to Nov. 2 to remember loved ones who have died, Food City sells Day of the Dead bread.

At Food City, Bashas’ Family of Stores, Día de Los Muertos or Day of the Dead and Three Kings Day are popular holidays among the Hispanic communities that the grocery caters to.

For Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday celebrated from Halloween to November 2 to remember loved ones who have died, Food City sells Day of the Dead bread. This unusually shaped bread comes in butter-bread flavor as well as sesame or sugar.

Around Three Kings Day, which falls on January 6, Food City begins selling the customary Rosca de Reyes or King’s Ring, a sweet bread shaped like a wreath, with candied fruit on top, and a figurine of a baby Jesus baked inside.

Look to pastry partnerships

Many holiday sweets and specialty pastries require an expertise that might not be found on staff at an in-store bakery. Lucky’s and Dorothy Market have seen success working with outside vendors for their holiday bakery needs.

During the Christmas holiday season, Lucky’s bakeries feature stollen, a German fruit and nut cake coated in powdered sugar.

Lucky’s sells baked goods from Hot Bread Kitchen, a nonprofit that helps train women for food careers. The market has sold their hot cross buns for Easter, and for Christmas this year the market will offer their Parker House rolls and stollen, a German fruit and nut cake coated in powdered sugar.

The story behind these baked goods and their makers is part of the selling strategy, Finch said.  

“I feel like when people know more about a company, they’re more likely to spend their money on their products, especially when they have such a great story,” he said.

One of the outside vendors Clark uses at Dorothy Lane is Ghyslain Chocolates, which initially helped start the market’s pastry program. His hand-painted chocolates help make Dorothy Lane a destination for edible gifts.

One of the most popular dishes from Ghyslain is the Buche de Noel, an authentic French Yule log. “It is most impressive when you bring it to Christmas gathering people take photos of it before they eat,” said Clark. An Instagram-worthy indulgence always helps.

Contact Gloria Dawson at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter: @GloriaDawson

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