Progressive Grocer Independent

DEC 2016

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24 | Progressive Grocer Independent | December 2016 Dairy Departments T he dairy department is still very much the redheaded stepchild when it comes to the supermarket. However, that's slowly changing. Some stores are taking a critical look at the depart- ment and making some important changes. In Niemann Foods Inc.'s new concept, Harvest Market, in Champaign, Ill., the company has reimagined the depart- ment, beginning with its placement in the store. Traditionally, the dairy de- partment has been along a back wall, due mainly to logistics involved with stocking the cases, and the idea that most consumers buy milk, so making them walk through the entire store would likely add to impulse purchases. "We've positioned it differently," says Gerry Kettler, director of con- sumer affairs for Quincy, Ill.-based Niemann Foods. "We brought it out into the center. We feel that it is central to people's meals now." Kettler notes that some cases are still in the back of the store, but that the bulk of the department is "right in the middle of the store. In the industry, that alone is kind of cool." e product lineup also has been adjusted from Niemann Foods' other locations. e department still fea- tures plenty of options for traditional commodity milk, but more space is devoted to local dairy products. "e mix is much different. Rather than have those items as a niche product, we focus on them," Kettler says. "It's an 'all foods fit' mentality that permeates through the dairy depart- ment. We just provide the information and let people make their choices." Customer response to the new format and prod- uct choices has been posi- tive, especially in regard to the connection the store has with its producers and the emphasis placed on truly farm-fresh product. For example, the eggs are sourced from within an hour of Champaign. Fresh Butter In the Harvest Market concept, Niemann Foods also introduced its first butter-churning room, which is fully visible to customers, who can watch the butter being made on site. e room, which features large picture windows, is positioned between the deli and the bakery and directly behind the cheese case to best attract those customers shopping the prepared foods department. e idea of churning butter on site began germinating a few years The NEW Dairy Department "We brought [the dairy department] out into the center. We feel that it is central to people's meals now." —Gerry Kettler, Niemann Foods Inc. ago, when the Harvest Market concept was in the infancy of its planning stages. "We wanted to do some unique things that showed our connections to the farmer, our connections to the grower and then straight to the manufacturer," says Kevin Walker, foodservice director for Niemann Foods. He went to a creamery in Wisconsin to learn how to churn butter and what type of machinery the store would need. e butter operation "just helped reinforce what we mean when we talk about our new store, and that is transparency. at is who we are," Kettler adds. "We're connecting the consumer to the food they eat." e butter tells that story well, and "you can taste the difference," he notes. Customers are literally eating the butter up, with thousands of dollars' worth sold within the first week of the store's opening. It's a product that commonly sells out by day's end. A reimagined department can rejuvenate sales. By Katie Martin

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