Six Ways To Successfully Cross Merchandise

Simple ways to raise register rings.

Carol M. Bareuther

Sunday dinner from The Fresh Market is simple, savory and stress free for customers of the 159-store chain headquartered in Greensboro, NC. The menu starts with a plump juicy rotisserie chicken. Then, coun- tertop signage offers a choice of two sides. Shoppers can opt for traditional dishes, such as creamy macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, a baked potato salad or something trendier like Brussel sprouts with bacon, broccoli cranberry slaw with almonds or an edamame chickpea med- ley. Plus, for an extra 50 cents per side, customers can upscale to one of the deli’s bistro-style sides like lemon orzo salad or a crisp pear and broccoli salad with walnuts.

The Fresh Market rounds out the meal with a side of sweet cornbread and offers it all for a $12.99 deal, or $13.99 with two bistro sides. Thus, the customer who came in for a single item—a rotisserie chicken, now walks out with an entire meal solution and the retail deli has upped its ring by 62 to 75 percent. This is the beauty of cross merchandising.

“Cross merchandising is the most import- ant marketing to achieve incremental sales in your deli,” says Giuliana Pozzuto, marketing director for the George DeLallo Co., a Jeanette, PA-based manufacturer of Italian and Mediterranean foods. “In the same way that consumers are influenced by the cre- ative and eye-catching food photos on social media, your deli has the same power to directly influence a purchase in-store.”

There are three overarching elements to assure that cross merchandising in general is successful, according to the Madison, WI-headquartered International Dairy Deli Bakery Association’s (IDDBA) 2012-pub- lished handout Merchandising – Successful Cross Merchandising. These are creating combinations that take care of customers’ needs, make for a timely experience and partake of deli employees’ knowledge to inform and suggest. More recently, according to the IDDBA’s What’s In Store 2020, 74.2 percent of shoppers surveyed viewed cross merchandis- ing as an extremely/very important feature at food retail, second only to the offering of prepared foods. The placement of two or more items next to each other is indeed cross  merchandising.

However, the more creative deli operators are in utilizing this sales strategy, the better the result. Here are six strategies to get started.


Pickles and ice cream might be a logi- cal combination to pregnant women. However, this pairing won’t inspire most shoppers to put both foods in their bas- ket. The sweet spot about the deli is that the department is full of products that do indeed make lip-smacking, impulse-enticing buys.

“There are natural pairings, such as lunchmeat, condiments and breads,” says Tom Orlando, national sales director for Conroy Foods, a Pittsburgh, PA-based maker of Beano’s-brand condiments. “Sometimes, the simplest pairings and cross merchandising techniques work best. For example, when the retailer’s deli is advertising a sale on roast beef, make sure our Beano’s Horse Radish Sauce is close by and prominently featured. It is amazing when products appear to be in sync with one another on a merchandis- ing and promotional level versus hundreds of products autonomously residing in their own space.”

Cross merchandising, or building combo meals, is a good way for supermarket deli operators to take a bite out of foodservice sales.

“Restaurants have been doing this for years, and most importantly they do it every day,” says Bob Sewall, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Fall River, MA-headquartered soup and sides maker, Blount Fine Foods. Just look at the quick serve arena. You drive through and order a combo meal by its number. Delis have all the fixings to do the same thing, too. And because of the vari- ety offered at retail, probably do an even better job with more variations. Just think, the average deli has four to five sand- wiches, four to five salads and four to five soups. Putting even two of these together in a combo meal can result in a 25 to 50 percent life. Plus, this variety means there’s a huge ability to mix and match and come up with different combinations every day or every week.”

Newer products include the company’s Hatch Chile Mac & Cheese that pairs well with fried chicken; Cheesy Polenta that menus with ribs and coleslaw; and Riced Cauliflower as a side for baked salmon. Among the best-sellers is Blount’s Broccoli and Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese.


Some retailers practice merchandising according to an internal category hierarchy, while those who are most successful execute their merchandising practices on par with how the consumer shops, says Conroy Food’s Orlando. “Can you have all the breads, rolls and condiment options right next to the deli? No, but you can provide simple, creative and quite possibly unique product pairings to fit the consumer demand.”

To do this, create secondary in-store displays.

“Putting dips or spreads near the Pressels or Wicked Crisps or vice versa work well in terms of secondary dis- plays,” says Jeff Canner, vice president of CRG, LLC, a marketing company based in Andover, MA, that manages both brands. “But it falls down when it’s a treasure hunt. You need the items together. If people can find these products together in a second- ary display, the cross merchandising will be highly effective.”

Protein Pressels are the latest variation of the thin, crispy and popular pretzel chips, and are made with red lentils, white beans and green peas and available in BBQ and Sea Salt flavors. A 1-ounce serving pro- vides 5 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber.

Use store signage to make a clear snack, meal or usage connection between the products cross merchandised in the display, recommends Krystle Turnbull, product manager for the artisan line at Litehouse, Inc., in Sandpoint, ID. “Plus, offer entic- ing price promotions. A buy-one-get-one incentive, whether for a free or discounted product, is a great way to connect new product trial with a best-selling product that customers already know and love. Research has shown that by using secondary displays, stores typically see an additional 200 percent unit lift during this type of cross merchandising promotion.”


The try-it, you’ll like-it and buy-it approach works well when cross merchandising as part of a manned demo.

“When a shopper tries a sample fea- turing our cheese spread with a specific cracker, it may give them an idea of a pair- ing they hadn’t thought of before or remind them of something they wanted or needed that wasn’t necessarily on their list, and they will buy both products,” says Brittany Requejo, marketing manager for Pine River Pre-Pack, Inc., Newton, WI-based mak- ers of cheese spreads. “This is especially true when the deli staff and demo person work well together to prepare the samples and set up an appealing display. It is the dif- ference between a shopper stopping and sampling or walking away.”

Early this year, Pine River released a new and improved line of shelf-stable gourmet snack cheese spreads. The com- pany achieved this by adding more aged Wisconsin Cheddar to the recipe and limiting the use of other non-dairy ingre- dients to achieve a flavor more consistent with the traditional cold pack, but with the convenience of not requiring refrigeration. Pine River also recently introduced its first clean label Cheddar-based, cold pack cheese food to the market in five variet- ies: Sharp Cheddar, Port Wine, Garlic & Herb, Hot Habanero and Spicy Beer.

Cheese and cracker cross merchandis- ing has also proved a win for the Venus Wafer Co., in Hingham, MA, manufac- turers of over 20 types of crackers and flatbreads.

“In the past when we demo our crack- ers and/or flatbreads and cheese or hummus or dips that are on promotion together, we have noticed increased sales,” says James Anderko, vice president of sales and marketing.

Mariner-brand Stoned Wheat Bite Size crackers and Mariner Lavasch are the com- pany’s two best-selling products and both complement a variety of deli products such as cheese, meats, dips, soups and salads. Recently, Venus has introduced offerings under its classic Mariner brand. These include Organic Saltines, Organic Thin Wheat and Organic Clubhouse crackers.


Recipes, conveyed via grouped product displays, signage or even recipe cards, are a great way to show customers other ways to use cheese spread that they may not have thought about, suggests Pine River’s Requejo. “For example, an easy recipe would be cheese spread on a slice of ham or salami and then rolled up. Or, serving our Sharp Cheddar with Elbow Macaroni for an easy mac ‘n cheese dish or mixing our Jalapeño Cheese Spread with salsa and serving with tortilla chips.”

Similarly, bagels and cream cheese are often thought of breakfast bakery staples. But there’s opportunities for lunch and din- ners from the deli, too.

“One of our newest flavors is Horseradish & Cheddar,” says Carl Cappelli, senior vice president of sales and business development for Don’s Prepared Foods, in Schwenksville, PA, which makes and markets its 17-item line of Melanie’s Medleys brand flavored cream cheeses. “The supermarket deli can use this as a dip or market it as a premade sandwich or as fixings for a hot roast beef sandwich on Lavash or a tortilla.”


Seasons and holidays are all good hooks for a cross merchandising theme.

“My tip for spurring creativity is to take all of the seasonal inputs into account. What I define as seasonal is what sporting events are taking place. Think wings during March Madness with Beano’s Honey Mustard or Buffalo sauce. For calendar holiday pairings, think after Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches with Beano’s Cranberry Honey Mustard, or weather-related seasonal fruits paired with a Beano’s Balsamic vinegar dressing. Know when the graduations occur at the local level and be in touch with your shoppers’ reality,” says Orlando.

For football season, Litehouse created a cross merchandising promotion with its blue cheese dressing and deli chicken wings to call out the dressing as the per- fect condiment for dunking, says Turnbull. “We created strong in-store signage to support the promotion and tied the two items together as a must-have for watching football.”

Cheeseboards and charcuterie platters are on-trend right now and ideal for holiday and entertaining in general.

“A ‘Make-Your-Own Cheeseboard’ dis- play featuring our cheese spreads, as well as a few other cheeses and meats from the deli, and even a cutting board and napkins, would be a great way to incorporate many brands into one promo display and draw the attention of a shopper,” suggests Pine River’s Requejo.

DeLallo’s newest product, an all-natu- ral Italian Tomato Bruschetta available in a 9.8-ounce jar, pairs up perfectly with fresh Mozzarella, specialty cheeses, focaccia toasts and other charcuterie complements, according to Pozzuto. “We are also launch- ing it in a bulk format, as well, so that retailers can sell it on olive bars and for repack programs.”


Consider cross merchandising across different departments, which can be an effective way to grow consumer basket size across the store, says Litehouse’s Turnbull. “For example, during our summer barbecue pro- motion, we featured new and fun burger recipes incorporating our delicious line of Simply Artisan Cheese Crumbles. Cross merchandising, our product next to the meat department wasn’t an option, but we strategically placed similar signage in the meat and deli departments, which helped consumers make the connection between products while navigating through the store. If consumers were picking up meat in the meat department, a sign with a juicy burger and blue cheese crumbles would tap into their desire for our Cheese Crumbles and direct them to the deli department to find our product.” DB


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