Nothing tantalizes customers from all the way across the store like the scent of bread baking. But bakeries are one of the most labor-intensive areas of a retail operation. Whether your bakery is still in the conceptual stage or already in the big leagues, good managing and marketing can go a long way. These tips and trends from expert natural and organic bakers will have customers filling up their breadbaskets at your bakery counter.
Flaunt your freshness
The biggest competition for your in-store bakery is on your own shelves. According to a report by the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association, 91 percent of customers who buy from in-store bakeries also buy other companies' prepackaged baked goods in the same store. When there's such variety, what draws people to your bakery? Convenience and freshness, according to the IDDBA report. Showing off how fresh your goods are with signage or by word of mouth helps customers understand the difference between your product and the others. And making your freshly baked bread as convenient as the packaged varieties—by investing in a machine that'll slice the bread, for example—is also likely to pay off.
Good reason to go organic
A clear way to differentiate your bakery department is to become certified organic. Though it takes commitment to logging ingredients and attentiveness to operations, the organic tag can be a strong selling point. "We're all-organic," says Michael Norris, master baker at the North Coast Co-op in Arcata, Calif. "We've definitely seen a trend toward that."
But baking with organic and all-natural ingredients brings its own set of challenges. Bread without preservatives has a shorter shelf life than what your customers might be used to. Educating them about what to expect from your products and how to properly store your bread will help them get the most out of their purchases. Nancy Sauer, bakery manager at Open Harvest in Lincoln, Neb., says she tries to get customers to think of bread the way they think of produce. "People don't buy their bread to enshrine it," she says. "It's a fresh product, like bananas."
Seasons and servings
Tailoring your bakery offerings to the time of year can increase products' appeal. But that means more than just baking pumpkin pie around Thanksgiving. Tony Montana, head baker at The Wedge Co-op in Minneapolis, says his bakery focuses on what's in season. During the summer, he'll pull fruit from the produce department for pastries. In the winter, it's custard- and chocolate-filled treats. "Comforting foods are important to go with soups in the fall, too," he says.
Throughout the year, an easy way to gain new bakery customers is to offer more individual servings and half loaves. A shopper might not be brave enough to buy a whole pie or cake in a new flavor. A single customer might not be able to consume a whole loaf before it grows moldy. Offering smaller portions reaches out to those customers—and it's a good way to inspire spur-of-the-moment sales. At Open Harvest, Sauer serves up individually wrapped treats like blackberry crumble and cherry crisp to appeal to lunch customers at the store's deli. "It's extremely common to see someone coming in for a burrito and grabbing a piece of cherry crisp, too."
Your bakery can sell more than just baked goods if you take advantage of cross-marketing opportunities. Matching breads with cheeses, olive oils and spreads ups the impulse factor and can introduce shoppers to new products. A 2006 study by international market-research group Mintel showed that 37 percent of survey respondents purchased cheese from an in-store bakery. For the vegan and lactose-intolerant, think nut butters and preserves. Chocolate is another option, good for marketing alongside baguettes, Morris says. Sauer says she envisions marketing her muffins alongside fresh fruit for a tempting breakfast display.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 9/p. 74, 78