Touchdown: 7 Tips for Cashing in on the Super Bowl

The Super Bowl’s timing couldn’t be better for in-store bakeries: During the slowest period of the year, consumers come ready to make the supermarket their one-stop shop for stocking up on party food. 

“The big game is recognized as one of the most watched sporting events on television and certainly one of the largest days for food consumption,” says Glynn Jenkins, public relations director of Kroger’s Atlanta division. “Super Bowl parties are one of the top at-home party events of the year.” 

Grocery stores report the surge in customer visits specifically begins the Friday before the NFL event and lasts until kickoff. And what shoppers are buying is more than chicken wings and chips: In-store bakery sales increased 10 percent in the week before the 2016 Super Bowl over the previous seven days, according to research provider Nielsen.

To meet the uptick in bakery business, put on your game face well before February. Jenkins says his team starts planning for the Super Bowl immediately after Christmas and New Year’s Day, so the sooner you start training in these strategies for Super Bowl success, the better:

1. Get the Basics Right.

Attract shoppers by focusing on traditional bakery items. “The week of the big game is the football season’s highest seller for products like brownies, dessert bars and cupcakes,” says Sarah Schmansky, director of Nielsen Perishables Group. “These key entertaining products should be fresh and stocked one to three days before the Super Bowl to meet the needs of shoppers who plan ahead and those who shop last minute,” she says. In addition to stocking at the right time, take a page from Kroger’s when planning how much product to stock. The chain relies on past sales and inventory data to fine-tune ordering and production. 

2. Test and Iterate With Game-Day Goods.

The Super Bowl may be the main event, but that doesn’t mean you should let the season leading up to it go to waste. At least six weeks before the big game is a great time to experiment with new offerings and test display type and location success. For example, at the start of the season, baked goods may feature basic decorations like cupcake toppers and sell primarily in the bakery. Heading into the playoffs though, decorations and variety should become more elaborate—think team-colored icing and sprinkles—and grouped with the store’s football-themed display. As the season heats up, bakeries can ramp up offerings based on tactics proven successful during the trial period. 

3. Go Big With Themed Treats.

Although bakery sales surge around the Super Bowl, customers may not have desserts on their shopping list when they enter the store. In fact, consumers make 82 percent of retail purchasing decisions in stores, according to Point of Purchase Advertising International

Maximizing the appeal of bakery products will encourage customers to make impulse purchases as they walk by the bakery. One way to do this is to customize best-selling goods, such as message cookies, cupcakes and brownies, with a football theme using team-colored icing, and plastic football, helmet and team logo toppers. Other party-ready options include football-themed cupcake pull-aparts, brownie bite platters, single-layer decorated cakes or football-shaped cakes. 

Beyond the products themselves, in-store bakeries can catch shoppers’ interest with attention-grabbing displays. Sixteen percent of the decisions shoppers make in stores are driven solely by displays, according to POPAI. Use festive floral arrangements, clever and descriptive signage, and balloons to attract consumers.

4. Take Advantage of Foot Traffic.

Think outside the bakery, too. In stores with a central Super Bowl display that entices shoppers with staples like soda and chips, bakeries can create adjacent displays to capitalize on that traffic, says Jim Sweeney, managing director of The Stores Consulting Group, a retail and grocery consultancy in Wilmington, Ohio. 

“It’s important to get out in front of shoppers so when they come in to pick up snacks and soda, they might also pick up cute cupcakes or other fun items,” he says. Displays by register end-caps or the front door make shoppers stop and look, too. 

If the bakery only has enough game-related inventory to display in one place, Sweeney recommends the central store location over the bakery department. “That’s how you’ll get people’s attention and stand out from your competitors,” he says.

5. Play Nice With Other Departments.

Cross department lines to provide game-day meal and entertaining solutions using products from the bakery, deli, produce, meat and center aisles. “This event is all about no-work entertaining,” says Schmansky. “Consumers want the store to do the work, so ensure promotions and communications around this event tout the time-saving and convenience aspects for shoppers.”

Make it easy for shoppers to get all their needs covered with package deals or run promotions on products commonly purchased together for watch parties, like cookie and sandwich platters. 

6. Don’t Forget the Bread.

The Super Bowl is among the most popular grilling weekends of the year—second only to the Fourth of July. And because consumers indulge for the big game, many upgrade from packaged hot dog and burger buns to fresh-baked bakery rolls. Jenkins says that at his Kroger stores, the Super Bowl generates more sales of specialty breads for sandwiches, as well as bakery breads that pair with chili and dips. Similar to pairing desserts with popular platters and snacks, display fresh bread with other grilling staples, or consider themed signage that flaunts the bakery’s buns and rolls.

7. Local Team Playing? Better Amp Up Supply.

Sweeney says that if the local team or regional fan favorite is playing on Super Bowl Sunday, in-store bakeries should double their projections from prior years. Similarly, specialty bakery orders typically increase when the local team is playing. In the seven to 10 days leading up to the game, encourage shoppers to avoid last-minute planning chaos and place dessert orders early. Consider putting team-colored signs in the bakery, around the Super Bowl display and in the store’s marketing materials and coupons. In addition, showcasing one or two cakes decorated with team colors and logos in the bakery will help spur orders.