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When it comes to selling longer-lasting, high-quality dough and baked goods at retail, frozen is the way to go.
?It is critical,? asserts Doon Wintz, CEO of Chester Township, NJ.-based Wholly Wholesome, which offers a range of all-natural and gluten-free products such as pizza dough and pie shells. ?If not frozen properly, the consumer?s experience will be diminished, which means no repeat purchase.?
?Freezing allows us to deliver a scratch-made biscuit to consumers with a longer shelf life,? notes Polly Madsen, marketing manager for frozen baked goods at Northfield, Ill.-based General Mills, whose products include the Pillsbury Grands! line of frozen biscuits.
?Freezing our cookie dough as soon as it?s made allows us to use high-quality ingredients, like real eggs and butter, while maintaining a long shelf life without having to use any artificial ingredients,? explains Jen Laska, president of Los Angeles-based Gourmet Frozen Cookies Inc., which makes Jen & Joe?s Cookie Dough. ?We portion the cookie dough into individual servings and then freeze it so the balls of dough don?t stick together. That adds a level of convenience and portion control for our customers.?
Frozen items are especially important in the gluten-free segment. ?It is a niche market, and most gluten-free customers also seek a product as ?clean? as possible,? observes Wintz. ?That means free from artificial ingredients, shelf-life extenders and gums. As a result, freezing is not only the best way to extend the life of the product for the consumer, but also to minimize the risk of shrink or spoilage.?
One particular challenge for makers of frozen dough and baked goods is conveying the benefits of their products, since many shoppers believe fresh products to be superior to frozen.
In an effort ?to provide transparency to the consumer,? Wholly Wholesome is ?launching a new sub-brand for our gluten-free offering, Wholly Gluten Free, to better communicate to the consumer, and at the same time address the growing need to be transparent and clear on food allergens,? says Wintz, adding that its ?new packaging clearly tells the consumer which of the eight major allergens are in the product (zero, in our case) and also in the production plant (only eggs). Many people who have food allergies have multiple ingredients that affect them.?
He further notes that the items? new look will ?better meet the market?s need for attractive, informative and more easily merchandised packaging.?
Since ?consumers have become skeptical of health claims on packaging,? Jen & Joe?s has, in a similar move, ?launched new packaging that puts the ingredient list on the front of the box, with the tagline ?Ingredients so good they?re on the front,?? notes Laska. ?We thought, why not give the consumer everything they want to see up front? We have nothing to hide in our cookie dough. So far, the new packaging has been very well received by retailers and consumers.?
Despite these positive moves, however, work still needs to be done in this area. According to Madsen, ?The frozen dough/bread/rolls category needs to communicate [its] benefits more effectively to reverse the current trend? toward fresh items.
Placed and Priced to Move
Merchandising and promotions are other key elements in selling frozen dough and baked goods. To make sure its Grands items get noticed ? and purchased ? in supermarket frozen food sections, General Mills employs a three-pronged strategy.
?Lift and merchandising effectiveness [are] maximized when items are in the ad feature and on display in a freezer end cap or bunker,? says Madsen, adding that the company also co-promotes the product line with other Pillsbury items such as frozen Toaster Strudel and engages in digital couponing to encourage trial.
?We?ve had some success with [end cap] placement in Safeway over the summer,? affirms Jen & Joe?s Laska. ?It was a great way to expose the brand to new customers who might not ordinarily walk down the freezer aisle looking for dessert. We are now moving the product into the permanent frozen dessert section for the fall reset at Safeway across the U.S., and will begin pricing promotions,? which, she says, ?have been the most successful during the first two weeks. ? The benefits drop off after [that]. So we?ll be sticking to shorter programs.?
The company will also take part in the Pleasanton, Calif.-based grocer?s Just For U discount program, which Laska describes as ?a more targeted approach to promoting the product.?
?For frozen products, our most successful method of promotion has been retail price reductions with retailer cooperative ads,? agrees Wholly Wholesome?s Wintz, admitting, ?Demos are difficult at best with frozen dough products. In frozen, there is not often the opportunity to build off shelf displays at the point of demo to drive sales, which makes the cost of customer acquisition quite high.?
Perhaps to compensate for this disadvantage, the company?s ?social media presence has grown significantly,? he adds, ?and every day, we are increasing awareness of our brand through varying mediums ? local to national.?
Such efforts appear to be paying off, as Wintz declares the company?s Gluten Free Pie Shell ?a breakout hit, and our Gluten Free Pizza Dough Ball is just now hitting a broader launch.?
Jumping Into the Space
In the near future, growth in the $1.4 billion category, sales dollars of which, according to Nielsen, were down 2.4 percent for the 52 weeks ending Aug. 30, is a distinct possibility, thanks to new players and evolving consumer expectations.
?Many retailers are developing a frozen cookie dough category,? says Laska. ?Nestlé has already followed our lead and just launched a frozen cookie dough,? which, like Jen & Joe?s, is carried by Safeway, ?and we expect more companies to jump into the space.?
She continues: ?We?ve also seen a couple of regional brands of frozen cookie dough with a nice, clean ingredient list like ours. I think we?ll see more and more of that in the frozen dough category as consumers demand better products like this.?
Wintz, however, is of the opinion that such products will remain the preserve of a certain loyal few. ?We believe that as consumers? desire for convenience grows and in-store bakeries get more creative in meeting [shoppers?] increasingly sophisticated tastes, frozen dough will be more of a niche item that fits a very specific need,? he notes, ?whether that be dietary restrictions or specialty items that don?t have the movement to support in-store bakery fresh merchandising.?
?Freezing is not only the best way to extend the life of the product, but also to minimize the risk of shrink or spoilage.?
?Doon Wintz, Wholly Wholesome