Making Cross Merchandising Work

Deli departments have many opportunities to pair complimentary products to increase sales and encourage impulse purchases

We’re living in a high-tech world, but one of the most effective ways to increase sales in the deli department is through a tried and true method — cross merchandising.

It’s a simple concept — showcase items that go well together and you entice shoppers to buy multiple items in the deli. It’s a great way to encourage people to try something different, promote new items and give a boost to products that aren’t making the register ring.

“The benefits of cross merchandising include not only meeting, but exceeding, your customers’ expectations by providing them with both a primary product and an accompaniment product, which wasn’t on their original list but expanded their enjoyment in end use,” says Jim Conroy, owner of Conroy Foods, based in Pittsburgh, PA.

He notes that other obvious benefits include increased sales for the retailer and the manufacturer. 

“The retailers who are consumer centric will benefit by increasing sales and enhancing the shopper experience,” says Conroy.

Show Off the Deli

John McGuckin, CEO of Tribe Mediterranean Foods, based in in Taunton, MA, says supermarket deli departments can help themselves by creating an experience based on cross marketing.

“They can make the deli more of a destination, which is critical for supermarkets, because that’s where they differentiate themselves, in the fresh food area,” he says.

Cross merchandising also gives supermarket deli departments an opportunity to educate customers about new and exciting foods, including Tribe Mediterranean Foods’ new lines of sweet hummus.

“The hummus category has 26 percent household penetration,”  says McGuckin. “And when you consider all channels, it’s about a billion-dollar category. And more than 50 percent of its growth is coming from sweet hummus, which is really significant because it’s the first time that we’re reaching beyond savory, and we’re attracting new consumers.”

Attract New Customers

McGuckin notes that the growth of sweet hummus is not cannibalizing sales of traditional savory hummus.

“It’s actually bringing new people to the category,” he says. “That’s exciting. The sweet hummus, which is currently available in chocolate, vanilla and mocha, brings up a whole new way to create theater in the deli, and you can now tie into fruit.”

People know traditional hummus lends itself to pita chips, crackers, cheese and veggies, but now it’s time to let folks know about other foods like fruit that complement sweet hummus, including bananas, strawberries and apples. 

“These all become tie-in opportunities for produce in the deli department,” says McGuckin. “So put a banana tree in the deli or put a secondary location of hummus in produce, where you don’t find a lot of good-for-you dips, even though produce is supposed to be a health mecca in the store.”

Traditional hummus is also ideal for cross merchandising in the deli section, as it can be a condiment on sandwiches and featured in all sorts of meals.

“The potential for hummus in this health and wellness environment that we live in today is really just a matter of education and creating solutions for consumers,” says McGuckin.

Conroy says the key to a successful cross merchandising initiative is to provide consumers with a solution.

“You don’t need to wow them with expensive fixtures,” he says. “We have a cardboard shipper with themed header cards. For example, our football theme — ‘Beano’s Deli Condiments Have All The Right Moves For Your Tailgate Party’—allows the consumer to pick up a bottle of each of the four choices for their tailgate purchase in the deli.”

Precut and Packaged

There’s also an opportunity with the trend of offering pre-cut and packaged deli goods to retailers.

“More and more retailers have a pre-packed deli area for the consumer who does not want to wait in line,” says Conroy. “These consumers grab some pre-sliced cheese, ham, maybe turkey, and right above the grab-and-go case you have a selection of condiments that this consumer will also grab, and their purchase decision is done.”

This, he says, encourages consumers to try something new with condiments, such as flavored mustards. It allows retailers to develop innovative flavors that are unique to their program, helping them stand out amongst the competition.

And he notes that Conroy Foods makes sauces that are geared for this method.

“For more unique cross marketing ideas, we pair our sauces with both new and established use profiles,” says Conroy. “For example, we have an All-American Sandwich Sauce that pairs extremely well with corned beef, fish and burgers so it is a very versatile sauce that has the ability to be cross marketed in several categories.”

And with cranberry sauce a staple of Thanksgiving meals, he says that Conroy’s cranberry honey mustard is the perfect teammate for turkey sandwiches.

Get Creative but Keep It Simple

Conroy offers several ways to cross promote his products, including displaying Beano honey mustard near frozen chicken nuggets or placing the company’s horseradish sauces near the meat case when beef is on sale.

“With shelf-stable condiments, we are able to be placed anywhere in the store,” he says. “Our balsamic dressing merchandised by the bagged salads gives the consumer the option of saving a trip to the salad dressings area and provides an easy placement opportunity.”

The company’s line also offers lots of options for a variety of uses, such as snacks, meals and sandwiches, both hot and cold.

“Our product line offers a number of condiments that can be applied to multiple uses when matching with hot, cold or snacks and meals,” says Conroy. “Whether it is deli style, jalapeño or pineapple honey, we have the mustard to pair with snacks, such as pretzels, cold ham sandwiches or grilled panini.”

But he adds that the cross merchandising premise is essentially simple, and should be kept that way.

“When you think about the practice, it is such common sense to place tertiary use products close to primary driver purchase items,” he says. “Everyone is time starved when shopping — read delivery and curbside pick-up — if we make the trip as convenient and satisfying as possible, we all win. The busy consumer who needs to make school lunches for their children selects the different lunch meats and cheeses, and right there while they are waiting for their deli order, we position our condiments. And if there are bread, rolls or flatbreads, that makes a complete occasion fulfillment of their need.

It Takes Teamwork

Cross merchandising is most effective when manufacturers and deli managers work together.

“Transparency and sharing of information are key factors in how manufacturers and retailers can work together on cross merchandising,” says Conroy. “If a retailer were to share their promotional plans for the deli department with manufacturers that don’t directly compete with the promoted products, then these manufacturers would be better equipped to pair their product for a cross merchandising experience.”

For example, a retailer who plans on promoting naan breads or pizza dough could collaborate with Conroy Foods on cross merchandising white pizza sauces.

“The consumer wins by such a natural pairing,” he says. “In addition to our white pizza sauces used on pizza shells and flatbreads, they are also used on bread sticks and baked potatoes.”

McGuckin says collaboration varies from deli department to deli department and that sweet hummus is a perfect opportunity for deli managers to get involved and work with Tribe.“You have people who are quick to adapt to the trend, and it’s clearly a trend, not a fad,” he says. “And you have people who are a little slower and they want to wait and see how it does; we deal with that in every business. The ones who are jumping out of the gate are having some fun with it because there hasn’t been a tremendous amount of innovation in the hummus category in the last five or six years. People are having fun with this sweet phenomenon and playing with different types of merchandising solutions, which is always good.” DB