All About Stacking

Apr 3, 2019
All About Stacking

Imagine you work for a national restaurant chain, like IHOP or Kentucky Fried Chicken. You are doing your annual planning and are trying to grow visits, average ticket, and sales. You can plan more promotions for the year—because discounting does work—but you want to protect margins, too. You could launch new products, but it takes a long time to create truly new menu items.

Or you could combine items you already make into a new product. And you know, from years of experience, that stacking products will work, if those products enhance crave appeal—the phrase they use to describe products that consumers say drive them to visit based on the excitement of that item alone.

McDonald’s french fries are an example of crave appeal. Just hearing the phrase can make your mouth water. And smelling them can cause you to turn your car around and hit the drive thru.

It turns out you can measure crave appeal. Researchers show consumers pictures of different food items and measure their heart rate, body temperature, and galvanic skin response (how much you sweat) when they see these items displayed. These measurements are physically tracking shopper arousal. Turns out our bodies are wired to love food, which makes us respond physiologically to certain kinds of food.

Of course, human biology has us hard-wired to crave high calorie products. Krispy Kreme donuts, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and TGI Fridays potato skins are examples of products that cause consumers to get excited. You probably have your own list of items that make your mouth water at the mere thought of them. I can tell you Chick-fil-A nuggets do it for me!

Given all we know about how our bodies and brains work, if you owned a restaurant chain and wanted to draw more shoppers, you would advertise high crave appeal products. But if you really want to draw in shoppers, you could combine high crave appeal items to create incrementally greater appeal. They call it stacking.

One great example of stacking is “chicken and waffles.” Individually, both are crave appeal products, but when combined, they draw consumers to order more than if they were separate on the menu. IHOP’s cream cheese and strawberry-stuffed French toast is another. In a way, a hamburger is an example of stacking: meat plus cheese plus bread equals improved crave appeal over those items advertised on their own. No wonder it is a best-selling menu item in almost every restaurant.

So, what is your version of a high crave appeal item? And what could you do to stack crave appeal to draw more traffic?

I have been visiting IGA stores month after month and have seen a lot of tactics for ramping up crave appeal. Examples include:

  • Adding bacon. To anything. Baked potato salad sells twice the number of servings a day as the base version and the only real difference is bacon!
  • Waffle chicken sliders. Use two mini waffles as buns with a fried chicken strip in the middle.
  • Pancake sausage balls. Little bits of cooked sausage sit inside round spheres of pancake batter.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea: many of our cool IGA retailers are intuitively creating high crave appeal items by experimenting with the idea that if two items are good on their own, sales can skyrocket when you combine them.

Stacking isn’t only a tactic for your deli. You can use the same concept for retail promotions. Think of a PB&J endcap with a bundled offer on bread, peanut butter, and jelly; or a S'mores endcap with Hershey’s chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows.

Look for examples of stacking in our manufacturers, too. New items like the Hershey’s chocolate bar combined with Reese's Pieces show our brands are trying to drive incremental sales with this tactic and when you see them, you should anticipate the new SKU will draw more sales.

What is your store’s highest crave appeal item? If nothing comes to mind, it's time to create one! Mega cookies, fresh fruit and nut bread, bacon-loaded mac and cheese, whatever! Second, how can you combine high crave appeal items to create more traffic draw? I promise it’s worth the effort to make shoppers’ mouths water when they think of your store!

Have an example of stacking or high crave appeal items that are working in your store? Email IGA Minute Editor Ashley Page to submit your idea.

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