A solid bakery program is crucial for building breakfast daypart sales. In an effort to secure those morning dollars, convenience retailers have added bakery programs, which they hope will in turn boost their coffee sales. The challenge is to find a high-quality program that complements their upgraded, upscale coffee programs, but doesn’t break their backs with labor.
Fifty-five retailers participating in CSD’s Brand Preference Study identified their top bakery and prepared foods providers as Sara Lee Foodservice, Bon Appetite and Ruiz Foods. Honorable mentions in the category were Tyson Foods, Prairie City, and Don Miguel.
The 55 chains operate 8,250 stores and rang up more than $139 million in bakery and prepared foods sales last year. While the category is an integral part of the morning and fill-in dayparts, 22%, or 12 of the buyers, reported no sales presentations from suppliers in the past 60 days. Just 27% said they were visited by three or more companies in the timeframe and only 9% had sales visits from five companies or more.
This means there is an opportunity for retailers and suppliers to capitalize on the growing breakfast segment. Many retailers are already ahead of the curve. Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes Inc. (Canastota, N.Y.) has culled its expansive family of proprietary brands under the Easy Street Eatery umbrella, which remains a popular foodservice destination in its upstate New York market. But Nice N Easy was fine-tuned as a baking operation when it began acquiring convection ovens for its sub program.
"It’s an expensive piece of equipment to have for just one purpose, so we started baking muffins along with our fresh baked sub rolls," said Jack Cushman, executive vice president of foodservice for the 84-store chain.
Nice N Easy sometimes uses local bakeries for some of its products and complements its fresh baked items with thaw-and-serve items from direct-store-distributors (DSD). The company bakes fresh muffins, cookies and it recently added scones to its repertoire. For these items it uses a scoop-and-bake pre-mixed batter.
"If you want your coffee program to grow, then you have to have a good bakery program, and vice versa. It’s a synergy between those two areas," said Cushman. "Scones really appeal to our market—good flavor, good treat and it’s not too sugary sweet. We buy the mix, scoop it into a muffin pan and bake away."
Since expanding its fresh baked items, Nice N Easy has seen a tremendous lift in overall sales, which includes its coffee program. To that end, the company has the luxury of assigning a staff member specifically to baking, but even with that it is working smarter, not harder.
"We don’t have a dedicated person, we have a dedicated staff," Cushman said. "It comes down to economies of scale—volume cures a multitude of sins."
He also warned that nobody can satisfy everything and trying to do everything will be the end of you. "Take our bagel program, we don’t have the space or staff to boil our own bagels. So we have a par-baked program. We receive them frozen, heat them at 350 degrees for 12 minutes and its enough to caramelize the surface. Some call it ‘fake and bake,’ but it’s what works for us. Thaw-and-serve and scoop-and-bake are methods that let us satisfy our customers without breaking our backs."