NEW YORK Retailers and suppliers are discovering that slicers, bread knives and other non-electric accessories can be a modest but lucrative add-on business to the burgeoning, $260 million electric bread machine category.
Non-electric items, often retailing for under $30, are being purchased with machines that retail for $100 to $200; they are also being bought by consumers who own machines and need to cut or store loaves, said experts. In some cases, accessories are displayed and/or advertised alongside machines and mixes in catalogs, department and specialty stores.
“While they don’t make a huge impact, accessories are a viable add-on sale to machines,” said a Southeastern department store buyer who cross merchandises machines with mixes and non-electric items. “About half of consumers purchasing machines buy accessories. Accessories also make a great fixed standing sale for the person that already has a machine, comes in to buy mixes, and sees them. We also use them in machine demos. Their performance is pretty fair, averaging about 5 to 8 percent a week sell-through,”
Another department store buyer said machines and accessories allow him to make a statement in gift-oriented housewares, an area with little brand awareness. “In cookware, the story is brand. But with a hot, gifty category like this, it makes sense to tell the story in merchandising. Last year, for example, I sold 5,000 pizza stones from one company in a pizza statement. If the firm had another name, though, it wouldn’t have made a difference to the consumer.”
Integral parts of the “story,” said buyers, are slicers, crumb catchers, bread boards and combinations of the three. Designed to help the user slice a clunky home baked loaf uniformly and/ or catch crumbs, choices include upscale hardwood models as well as more utilitarian plastic units.
“Our grooved cutting board/ bread knife combination has become our hottest selling board overnight; and we offer 60 different boards,” said Lifetime Hoan president Jeff Siegel. “With many machines retailing for about $200, another $10 is no big deal.”
Hoan’s set has placed in A&S, Lechters, Bed Bath & Beyond, Macy’s, Carson Pirie Scott and other department stores.
In upscale goods, Perfect Slices L.L.C.‘s adjustable slicing guide comes in a maple wood model, a maple/plastic combination and a fully plastic version, said principal Roger Fortney. It has placed in Bloomingdale’s by Mail, Marshall Field’s, Dillard’s and other upscale retailers.
Vermillion Inc. has added a creative touch to the basic slicer and other items. Made from ash wood, its four SKU Tenth Street Bakery line includes a crumber board shaped like a piece of bread and a warming board with a terra cotta center tile. The tile is heated and placed on the board to keep bread warm for 30 minutes, said national sales manager Gary Robinson.
While the products of Lifetime Hoan, Vermillion and Perfect Slices were developed for bread, Loroman Co.’s plastic lined, steel step pail was, ironically, originally intended for refuse.
Its life as a flour storage container, said marketing director Arnon Hiller, began when Anne Parrish, editor of the Electric Bread cookbook, wanted to suggest bread accessories to readers. Today, products are also sold for flour storage in Williams Sonoma and the King Arthur Flour Catalog.
The pails, available in several colors, have a food safe, removable liner. Offered under the company’s Brabantia assortment of Dutch made products, they hold 5 and 10-pound flour bags. Matching bread boxes hold two loaves each.
Plastic storage of loaves is another area vendors are targeting, with Frye International offering a Farberware licensed loaf storage/slicer. The airtight product is a microwaveable, cost efficient alternative to wooden bread boxes and slicers, said president Bud Frye.
Eagle Affiliates also has a plastic slicer/crumb tray, with the Betty Crocker licensed product suitable for cutting as well as serving. The device, said director of marketing Russ Gropman, is just as useful to home bakers as it is to consumers purchasing crusty, bakery made bread.
“Whether it’s because of the bread baker craze or store bought bread, a lot of unsliced loaves are being brought home,” he added. There’s been an enormous rise in the amount of loaves sold in bakeries, with a lot of supermarkets putting in bakery comers.
Cutting it Up
Bread knives are another hot accessory, with most manufacturers reporting significant increases in the item’s sales over the past year.
“We’ve experienced a 20 percent increase in sales of bread knives in 18 months, with many just buying the bread knife,” said Tommer Cutlery & Woodenware national sales manager Harry Hoffman. “We’ve also packed the knife with our bread crumber/cutting board for certain customers.”
Sales of Sabatier/Cuisine of France’s 9.5 inch bread knife have risen 30 percent, said president Loids Van Leuwen. “It’s just a standard knife in every manufacturer’s assortment. But no matter how sharp a knife is, you need a scalloped, serrated edge to cut bread or you crush it because it’s crusty outside and soft inside.”
At retail, a senior buyer for a nationwide specialty chain said bread knife sales are up 10 to 15 percent. Consequently, he may add exclusive combinations such as a knife/bread board, a bread and cheese knife or other sets.
Cross merchandising of knives and other products has gained popularity in direct mail catalogs as well, said Fridr. Dick general manager Michael Wallick. In Nature Farms, for example, some of the manufacturer’s half dozen bread knives are part of a promotional offer for bread mix, he added.
At department stores, cross merchandising is often done in sales circulars rather than at store level; knives remain in the cutlery department.
Wusthof Trident of America was one beneficiary of this tactic, with a major, upscale department store chain featuring its 10 inch Avante Garde Super Slicer in ads with bread machines and related items. Due to the knife’s success, Wusthof has added an offset bread knife, allowing the user complete knuckle clearance during cutting.
“They said it’s the most successful single item they’ve ever promoted,” said Northwestern regional sales manager Scott Severson. “In ads, it was shown with slicing guides and Panasonic machines. It is the only [stamped] Avante Garde product they carry and they sold out of the first order within a week.”
J.A. Henckels has also targeted the bread craze, having incorporated its Four Star and Professional S 8 inch bread knives in sets. Each set also includes a 5 inch utility knife for slicing bagels, said national sales manager Howard Ammerman.