Display cases should present products to customers, but also preserve the quality of the item.

To gain a clearer understanding of key trends in merchandising cases and displays, bake magazine reached out to several experts in the field of merchandising displays for their valuable input. The following are comments from Luc Imberechts, owner of Bakon USA Food Equipment, Inc., and Danielle McMiller, vice president of foodservice sales & marketing for Structural Concepts Corporation.

What are the most important things for bakery owners to know when they’re looking at purchasing cases for the shop? Especially in terms of store design?

Luc Imberechts: Display cases have several important functions: presenting the products to the customers but also preserving the quality, freshness and taste of the products while in the store. So, a great display case has in fact quite a lot of built-in technology: temperature, humidity control and air speed are key parameters that need to be in line with the needs…or problems of drying-out of the products or condensation will occur and have a negative impact on the sales. A display case designed for chocolate or macarons will not always be the right solution for pastries. Just like a display for bread products will be very different than a case for ready-to-eat sandwiches.

Our experience shows that a quality refrigerated display can increase sales by 25% or more. The display should in fact put the emphasis on the products. Pastries, breads, chocolate all offer a limitless combination of colors and shapes that make for spectacular stores. Smart design elements will help creating a unique feel into the store and ensures that the cases are really part of the environment. This is part of the discussion to have with the supplier who should have professional designer in the team.

Danielle McMiller: There a few things to consider. Food display equipment should blend with its surroundings, not dominate the space.  The goal is to sell fresh food and the food should stand out in order to generate impulse sales. Food displays that build into counters or tuck into alcoves disappear so that the food is the star of the show. If the display equipment will be refrigerated, controlling the temperature of the environment within which the displays will operate is very important. All refrigerated display equipment must hold 41 F. or less product temperature in a NSF Type I environment, which is 75 F. and 55% relative humidity. This is the minimum that all equipment must achieve.  Some food display manufacturers have equipment designed for warmer environments, which NSF calls Type II.  This equipment will hold safe temperature at 80 F. and 60% relative humidity. 

It’s important for the operator to understand how critical the operating environment is and the role it plays in achieving safe product temperatures, condensation free exterior surfaces on the equipment and problem-free refrigeration performance day in and out. Where the food display equipment is placed is also critical. Things like HVAC vents, outside doors and windows can adversely affect the performance of refrigerated display equipment. 

What are some of the common ways that cases and displays enhance a bakery’s products?

Luc Imberechts: As mentioned above, the quality of the cold (temperature, relative humidity and air speed) is of prime importance to ensure the quality of the finished products that are displayed. OCF displays enjoy some unique features that enhance the bakery’s products, among others: Patented LED lighting with a warm white tone to highlight the products. Patented 3 in 1 system that offers a display surface in one piece that ensures three functions: product surface, cold air vents guiding the air around the products and cold air intake to recycle the cold. Unique way of gluing the glass allows for a very transparent display. Contemporary, rustic or practical styles are all possibilities to reinforce the uniqueness and personality of the stores.

Danielle McMiller: Tiered shelving and glass shelves inside a service display case greatly enhance bakery product. The glass shelves let the shelves to appear floating and disappear the tiered shelving brings the food as close to the front of the display on all levels so that it’s seen and not hidden by the shelf above. Lighted shelves highlight the freshness. Adjustable shelving allows shelves to be positioned based on different sizes of bakery products. End panels with mirror on the inside keep the display looking full and fresh even as food sells down.

What do the different designs of cases offer in terms of functionality? Design/aesthetics?

Luc Imberechts: Combining the best of functionality and design is very important. The displays should allow for an easy access to the products for serving the customer and, ideally, offer a convenient storage for the packing as well as possibly integrate the cashier. Functionality should also allow for easy loading and unloading of products as well as simple cleaning. Rules of ergonomics should always be respected.

Danielle McMiller: There are many different styles of display cases.  Full service where the food is accessed from the rear of the display and served to the customer by an attendant, self-service with an open for customer self-selection, and combination displays that have both service and self-service functions in a single display.   Selecting the right design depends on the food product being offered. 

How can an otherwise ordinary case be utilized as a design element within a store layout?

Luc Imberechts: Store owners should choose the cases that they like. It is definitely a matter of personal preference and the cases will contribute to the working environment. So, one should enjoy the feel and the look of the space created. Creativity is endless, but always envision the displays full of products to see if they match what you like. The shape and positioning of the display will have a direct impact on the traffic flow within the store. There is a new discovery of the importance of quality displays in our industry. Constant innovation, new technologies and materials are allowing beautiful creations that can have a strong contribution on the sales and the success of a business.

Danielle McMiller: If positioned properly, it can be a vocal point of fresh food.  The display shouldn’t dominate but instead blend so that the food jumps out.  Bakery items are typically not planned purchases so the equipment’s job is present the food in such an appealing way that the customer can’t refuse to make an impulse purchase.