Carol Christison has been the Executive Director of the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association (IDDBA) for more than 25 years. In her tenure, IDDBA programs have grown from a 95-booth seminar and single newsletter to a full package of educational videos, training programs, original research studies, five separate newsletters, an annual trends analysis, and a seminar and expo that attracts over 7,000 plus attendees with 1,500 booths. Membership has also grown by tenfold since she began. Modern Baking asked her about the upcoming IDDBA expo in Atlanta.
1. What are the themes of this year’s Show & Sell Center Merchandising Pavilion?
CC: As we design each new Show & Sell Center, we look at what’s going on in the economy, the location of the show, and lifestyle changes that are impacting consumers. As consumer’s belt buckles and pocketbooks have tightened, we’re seeing a greater awareness of products and merchandising ideas that help save money or leverage meal ideas. For example, in the past, we showed wine and cheese pairings. This year, we have a beer and cheese pairing case that shows alternative beverages. Meals from home are also top-of-mind with consumers and we’re showing breakfast and lunch ideas that add pocketbook and taste appeal. We’re also demonstrating how to “repurpose on purpose” with cases, packaging, and product ideas that offer innovative solutions.
We still live in a very fast-paced society so we have several Show & Sell themes that offer new twists on grab and go, hand-held eating, and healthy alternatives. Taste is still the king and we’ve combined local foods, comfort foods, value meals, miniatures, and upscale items into a blend that will fit everyone’s palate and interest. This one showcase will have thirty-three separate themes that will be displayed. Each of the 33 themes will have its own product, merchandising, signage, and featured displays.
2. Has merchandising changed at all considering the changing attitudes of consumers in this economy? If so, how?
CC: Today’s merchandising concepts embrace the reality of a tightening economy along with the consumer’s desire to eat more healthy foods, to share new food experiences, and to enjoy some special treats. Consumers are looking for value meals that offer daily dining options without fuss and for a fair price. The ultimate reality is to create The People’s Choice. That’s why we chose that theme for the Show & Sell Center; to show that it’s not about “either-or”, it’s about multiple choices. For example, showcased themes this year include Value Meals, Brown Bag Gourmet, Ale to the Cheese, Pizza Solutions, Repurpose on Purpose, Noodleicious, and a Baker’s Dozen ways of selling product and thanking customers. We also have cases on Healthy Eats, Healthy Alternatives and local foods (Peachy Keen, Southern Comfort, Slice of the South, Cake-A-Walk Thru Georgia, and Georgia on My Mind). We have cases for Cheese Lovers, the People’s Cheese Awards, the Cheese Power Tower, Sunsational Salads, Get Stuffed, Stix & Cones, Dunk & Run, New Beginnings, the Queen of Tarts, and La Petite Belle, just to name a few.
All of these themes represent different lifestyles, different tastes, and different income levels. The key to successful selling is in showing consumers that they can choose a low-budget entrée and an upscale dessert (or just the opposite). It’s about choice – the People’s Choice. Consumers want to feel that their store understands the budgetary pressures they may have and that they’re working in partnership to deliver value. Remember that “value” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone – it’s important to explain to the shopper how your value initiatives meet their needs.
3. If consumers are indeed embracing “good food equals good health,” how does that affect supermarket in-store bakeries? What sorts of trends are spinning off from the general health trends?
CC: More and more consumers are buying into the “you are what you eat” healthy choice scenario. This is another example of how “the People’s Choice” is changing how and what consumers buy and eat. Last year, we published a study (Health & Wellness: The Purpose-Driven Consumer) that showed that more than two-thirds of shoppers considered themselves either somewhat or very concerned about their health and nutrition; nine in ten are very concerned about the nutritional content of their foods. Three-quarters always believe that food has a direct relationship to health. We see four major demographic shifts in the U.S. population that will feed the demand for healthier eating long term. They are the aging of the population; a fast-emerging interest in fortified, energizing, and functional foods by young Gen Y adults; a new baby-boom; and the fast-growing, health-focused Hispanic population. The research study covers each of these elements in depth.
Balance is the core of consumer’s nutrition strategy. As they seek to eat more healthful items, they’re also seeking to avoid specific ingredients that are deemed less healthful or harmful. About one-third are trying to add a specific type of food or component they believe will be beneficial. Over half of shoppers try to reduce the risk of developing an illness or condition through diet and proper food selection. More than 80% say they are currently consuming or would be interested in consuming foods or beverages for specific health reasons.
Consumers are very concerned about freshness and marketing that says “fresh-baked, baked-on-premise, baked at (time) etc.,” are key selling attributes. Bakery items that are perceived as wholesome or with natural goodness have great appeal as part of the “better for you” trend. Items that are portion-controlled or that offer maximum taste in a miniature size are great, too. High-fiber, added nutrients, high protein, and “treat” foods formulated with special nutritional profiles for children and other specific groups will be in high demand. We’re also seeing growth in kosher, natural, and organic claims for bakery products. More than 100 new varieties of whole grain breads have been introduced each year since 2005, according to the Nielsen Company. Between 2005 and 2007, the number of snacks featuring whole grains increased 260% (whole grain is the number-one claim 55%of shoppers look for on a package).
We actually asked shoppers what additional products they’d like to see offered in the bakery. Twenty-nine percent want to see more whole grain/whole wheat products; 16% want more low sugar/sugar-free/diabetic options/no high fructose corn syrup; 15% want to see more desserts/pies/cakes; 10% want to see more fresh-baked, European-style breads; and 9% want to see healthier food options. Other items ranked from 1-5% on the wish list.
4. What sort of new technologies will be on display at the show, and how will they affect/change the supermarket industry? (more specifically, supermarket in-store bakeries?)
CC: Time is money, especially in today’s economy. We must leverage our labor, our equipment, and our supplier base to get the maximum return. From ingredients to packaging to merchandising equipment to production equipment, innovative ideas that save money, that reduce waste, and protect the environment are being introduced at record levels. Products that offer just-baked freshness with minimal labor or “smart” processing will gain ground.
We’re starting to see a lot of “Repurposing.” Two years ago, we repurposed an upright refrigerated case and turned it into a bakery display. Last year, we used a rolling pot rack, added baskets, and turned it into a mobile bread display. These are creative, no-cost ways to get more mileage out of existing equipment. The Show & Sell Center (our 10,000 sq. ft. model store in the heart of the expo) shows dozens of creative ways that retailers can “repurpose” a container, a product, or a piece of equipment. Last year, we featured clear plastic paint buckets filled with cookies. The buckets were so popular, they “disappeared” from the displays. We also repurposed clear plastic corsage boxes to hold fancy cupcakes. This turned a cupcake into a beautiful gift item (at a higher price point). It’s this “outside-the-box” thinking that offers solutions and innovative ideas that increase customer appeal and the bottom line.
5. Impressive lineup of speakers. What sorts of issues will they be addressing, and why are they important to supermarket retailers?
CC: In today’s economy, many companies have gone from leading edge to bleeding edge. It’s important to understand the issues that brought us to this point of time and to examine the opportunities that will get us to the next frontier. These speakers understand the food business, the economy, merchandising, the global situation, and the consumer. By listening to some of the smartest people in the business, we can learn and take away a little something that will help our own business survive and grow. By getting smarter, we won’t have to work harder (or at least not as hard). The impressive speaker line-up is below.
Jeff Noddle, Chairman and CEO of Supervalu Inc., will be sharing his insights on The Future of Food Retailing. He’ll talk about new store formats, new eating behaviors, changing consumer tastes, and dynamic merchandising changes.
General Colin Powell, former Secretary of State, will talk about the world stage and the impact recent changes have had and will have on the world economic scene.
Alton Brown, Food Network channel celebrity and author, shows us how to connect with the customer at a personal level. He’s teaching the consumer to be a better consumer and a chef at the same time.Martin Lindstrom, author of Brand Sense and Brandchild, will speak on Buy-ology and the Future of Branding. He’s a brilliant strategist who will show us how to use our product and store brands to drive sales and reach new customers. The New Value Shopper will feature the results of a 3500 consumer survey on the changes shoppers are making as they seek to stretch their food dollars. Attendees will learn why shoppers are switching brands, using more coupons, cutting back on shopping trips, and seeking value-added items. All while vitally interested in maintaining value and quality. Brian Darr, Datassentials will deliver the research results. Dr. Lowell Catlett will speak on The Economic Behemoth: The Final Frontier. He’ll explain the differences between headlines, reality, and emotions that drive the economy, technology, and the future.
Dr. Oren Harari will speak on “Break From the Pack: How to Compete in a Copycat Economy.” He’ll focus on how to differentiate yourself from your competitors, to keep profit margins and customer loyalty up, and how to grow market share and stock value.
Bob Knight, former basketball coach, will share his winning strategies and motivational insights.
Jim Gaffigan will add humor to the mix as we share his delight in being the Ultimate Foodie.
Harold Lloyd will speak on merchandising ideas that will “raise sales without spending too much dough.”
6. You’ve been organizing this event for years now. What changes have you seen over the years, and what’s strikes you as new or different this year?
CC: Other than the sheer growth in numbers, one of the biggest changes over time has been the increase in the level of merchandising excellence. A long time ago, we just had table top displays with product laid out from end-to-end. Now, we have beautiful displays and creative product ideas that show buyers and merchandisers how their product will look in their stores. There’s a huge teaching element that brings training and merchandising to new levels. Being able to see, taste, and touch the finished product, the packaging, the equipment, and the merchandising props are important elements for buyers.
There’s a lot more co-branding and outside the box thinking for product usage and packaging. Being able to multi-purpose or repurpose an item adds value for the supplier, the retailer and the consumer.
We’re starting to hear a buzz about the need to “be ready” with new ideas and products when shoppers are tired of doing without and are ready to start buying. The next big trend isn’t about the most expensive item or the biggest – it’s about capturing the customer’s imagination and getting them excited. And that’s what trade shows do so well. It’s not just one or two ideas, it’s dozens or hundreds of ideas. . . . ideas for today, tomorrow, and the rest of the year.
7. What, specifically or in general, can bakers and bakery suppliers expect to get out of this year’s IDDBA?
CC: The obvious answers are the educational programs, the new products, and networking with suppliers and buyers. But this show is so much more than that. This show is about being first to see that hot new merchandising idea, seeing how to create a wonderful new product with just a little extra effort, using a non-traditional package to drive a sale. It’s about value-added with a capital V-A.
A big plus is tapping into the energy that comes with reconnecting with your personal and professional network. It’s about validating that you’re on the right track or learning that you need to steer a new course. It’s about reaching out to those who might need a little moral support or motivating them to stay the course. It’s about sharing the excitement of our business and building a plan to bridge today’s economic challenges with tomorrow’s growth opportunities.
8. Have you done a show in Atlanta before? What drew you?
CC: This is our first show in Atlanta. We had tried to book there before but our dates were always taken by another group. That group isn’t around any more so, when our dates opened up, we jumped at the chance.
We’re really excited about being in Atlanta because it will allow so many more attendees to drive to the show. We’ve talked to quite a few retailers who are planning on driving in order to cut costs but still be able to bring as many people as possible. It’s a great location with easy access and a lot of local attractions. We think it’s a peach!