Artisanal Foods Increase in Popularity

Organic Gets a Start in the Deli
With snacking occasions continuing to rise, supermarket delis can benefit from investing in the cracker segment. No longer just a grocery aisle staple, this popular “food carrier” is made to accompany the meat, cheese, spreads and toppings found in the deli. “The deli is a great place to position crackers, because it gives people all of the elements of an entertaining or eating presentation in one spot in the store,” says Cara Figgins, vice president at Partners, based in Kent, WA. “It also increases the likelihood more than one item will be purchased by that consumer.”

U.S. retail sales of crackers are expected to increase from about $7 billion in 2014 to $9.3 billion in 2018, according to a recent report from Packaged Facts, a Rockville, MD-based market research firm.
Deli Benefits
When it comes to merchandising crackers, delis have the advantage over the grocery aisle. The biggest advantage is the ability to sample. Delis have a dedicated staff that can provide serving ideas, suggest pairings and promote new lines. Also, a deli’s knowledgeable staff may be able to better educate the customer on what cheeses work best with particular crackers and therefore encourage a broader mix of products and flavors.

“Basically, when someone is serving cheese or charcuterie, they are pairing them with either bread or crackers as the vehicle to carry the primary ingredient,” says Steve Lorenz, director of marketing at La Panzanella Artisanal Foods Co., headquartered in Tukwila, WA. “Other enhancements may be used like fruit, fig spreads or nuts, but something is generally needed to carry these flavors and do so in a complementary way.” It provides added convenience for customers when all the necessary components.

Cracking The Cracker Code

Deli placement provides variety of cross-merchandising opportunities are displayed together and also provides added opportunities for incremental sales. “This ability to visualize tends to lead shoppers to buy more of the products they need because they identify things that may not have been on their list or top of mind to begin with,” says Lorenz. In this way, the deli can help drive incremental sales of crackers. When these items are available in two places in the store, catching the eye of the consumer when they are thinking about cheese, meat and other items will help build the basket. “I think presenting pairing ideas to consumers as a ready-made solution increases the sale of all of the pairing items,” says Figgins. “It increases the sale of crackers when salami or cheese is being featured and the sale of salami, cheeses and dips when the cracker is being featured.” Also, crackers placed on deli counters, in shippers or display vehicles provide answers for consumers and opportunities for retailers more so than solely relying on shelf positioning.

Still, it’s the presentation, not just the placement that will help sell these items. “Retailers have to put up enough units or cases to make an impact,” says James R. Anderko, national sales manager at Hingham, MA-based Venus Wafers Inc. “Knee knockers get lost on the floor, since people don’t typically look down when shopping.” With entertaining, it’s about creating the experience, and deli placement helps put all the pieces together for consumers. Product Placement Manufacturers recommend positioning crackers in the deli as close to the cheese case as possible. This helps make the connection between cheese, spreads and other accompaniments.

“Some examples we have seen that work really well for center aisle cheese cases are [crackers] displayed above and on the top of the case,” says Lorenz. “We have also seen shelves placed around the base of a case that include crackers or additional baskets attached or next to cheese displays.” Temporary shipper displays or wire racks also are effective solutions, particularly during busy seasons and holidays as these provide points of interruption.

Additionally, La Panzanella Artisanal Foods Co. demos its lines in select stores with a cheese or spread product. “This is a very effective way for us to
showcase the versatility of our Croccantini crackers as well as educate the customer on our variety of flavors,” says Lorenz. “And it helps the deli department drive additional sales for the partner products.” When demos are held, it’s key to have enough inventory on hand to accommodate the increased purchases. For example, Venus Wafer demos typically result in the sale of nine cracker cases in three hours, says Anderko. Another effective way to increase visibility of crackers in the deli is by instituting bundling programs. Denver-based 34 Degrees has run
promotions in conjunction with cheese, charcuterie and condiment brands, with “buy two items and get a third free”offerings.

“When we do bundling programs, sales increase dramatically,” says Craig Lieberman, founder and president of 34 Degrees. “Package, product message and positioning also inspire customers to buy complementary items that work together.” By placing these items collectively with signage in an eye-catching display, consumers will be more easily drawn in and have increased confidence in pairing unfamiliar food items that work. Crackers also can be an effective vehicle when sampling meat, cheese and spreads in the deli, since there are types like plain water crackers that are non intrusive to other food flavors.

“When pairing with cheese, it’s important the cracker doesn’t have an overpowering flavor,” says Venus Wafers’ Anderko. The display presentation is as important as the products that go in it. It must be shoppable with eye-catching signage, with all product and information at eye level. “Delis can’t just put crackers out and expect them to sell,” says Anderko.


Holiday Promotions

Any holiday or entertaining occasion is prime time for crackers, so deli displays need to capitalize on as many of these events as possible. This year, La Panzanella has partnered with a local winery, Michelle Sparkling Wine and its creamery, Mt. Townsend, to feature and display a holiday entertaining solution.

“Our peaks are typically around key holidays that coincide with gatherings for friends or relatives,” says Lorenz. “Some examples would be Easter or Mother’s Day and of course the last few months of the year around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.” There are additional pairing opportunities during the holidays, including cheese platters, wine, gourmet spreads and highend toppings. These are prime sampling occasions and can be a good time to encourage customers to get out of their comfort zone. “Some of the more successful delis will always have active cheese tasting going on,” says Lorenz. “A deli can take this one step further and show the customer how a cheese’s flavor can be enhanced and change depending on the flavor and texture of the cracker. This could lead to the purchase of more than one type/flavor of cracker.” In addition to the holidays, cracker sales also increase during the summer picnic season and around Super Bowl Sunday. The fourth quarter is the most vital for 34 Degrees and starts earlier each year, most recently in July. “We’ve come up with creative promotions and campaigns to tap into the focus on crackers in the fourth quarter,” says Lieberman. “This includes bundling, cross promotions with wine and expanded displays.”

By creating abundant, attention-grabbing cracker displays with creative and traditional pairing suggestions, delis can become a cracker destination equal to or greater than the grocery aisle. DB