Urban Gourmet
By Mary Ellen Kuhn

Premium confections are right at home in Roundy’s Metro Market.
If you think of Milwaukee as mainly a beer and bratwurst sort of town, then clearly you’ve never visited the downtown Metro Market, part of the Roundy’s Supermarkets chain, where food — including fine chocolate — is celebrated and showcased.
Unassuming on the exterior, the interior of the store exudes an ambiance that is simultaneously accessible and elegant. A floral boutique that calls to mind an open-air European flower market greets shoppers near one entrance. Adjacent to the lavish deli department, the café has a welcoming vibe thanks to a fireplace, plasma screen television and free Internet access. The bakery case displays elaborate cakes worthy of the most elegant of special occasions as well as European pastries and a large assortment of artisan breads. Then there’s the produce department stocked with 650 varieties of fruits and vegetables.
“The whole concept of Metro Market is to be something other than what the customer is used to,” says candy category manager Mike Overschmidt.
It’s about the food
“It’s a place for foodies,” Overschmidt continues, adding that, “they come because it’s a fun place.” The nontraditional grocery store opened its doors three years ago and has been delighting the city dwellers and suburbanites who work downtown ever since. The shopper base includes young urban professionals, well-off retirees and students from nearby academic institutions including the Milwaukee School of Engineering, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Marquette University. Many of these consumers tend to be somewhat health-conscious, but they’re not above the occasional “permissible indulgence,” in the form of a morsel — or more — of choice chocolate. “They’re cooking less, but they want to eat better,” Overschmidt observes. “Confections can be part of that.”
Sensory appeal
Appetizing aromas regularly waft through the store thanks to twice-daily sampling events and/or cooking demonstrations presented during the lunch and dinner hours. Periodically, the retailer takes things up notch with an elaborate special event to showcase a new product or line such as the recently introduced Omanhene chocolate from Ghana.
Throwing some chocolate into the mix can add to the fun — and to revenues as well. Sampling premium chocolate brands is a perfect fit for special events such as Metro Market’s periodic Single’s Nights, which draw from 400 to 500 people for shopping and socializing, for example. And for Mother’s Day this year, hand dipping strawberries in chocolate added a bit of in-store theater as well as generating incremental confectionery sales.
A refrigerated display case adjacent to the bakery department provides a home for gourmet goodies from chocolatiers including Joseph Schmidt, Long Grove Confectionery and Scharffen Berger. The assortment also features decadent treats such as chocolate- and caramel-covered apples and chocolate-covered pretzels that are made in-house.
Including such a high-end confections display is a natural complement to Metro Market’s other upscale departments, according to Overschmidt. “We’re already your butcher and baker; why can’t we be your confectioner?” he asks.
The refrigerated-case confections, which have been offered for about five months, haven’t been expanded to any of the other 154 stores within the Roundy’s chain. It’s still “experimental,” says Overschmidt. “Metro Market is our showcase and our laboratory,” he adds.
As might be expected, Metro Market boasts an extensive selection of wines in an attractively appointed department. Overschmidt hasn’t overlooked the opportunity to do a bit of wine-and-chocolate merchandising. A small display rack at the department’s checkout counter features some premium chocolate bars in the $2 price range.
Upscale inline
In addition to the upscale chocolate offerings in the refrigerated case, a four-foot specialty set within the regular candy aisle is the destination for premium brands including Ritter, Ghirardelli, and Lindt, in addition to Omanhene and a variety of others. Spring-loaded pushers help to keep bars attractively displayed and easily accessible.
Natural and organic offerings are well represented under labels such as Newman’s Own, Dagoba and Endangered Species. Throughout the Roundy’s chain, special “bump-out” shelving that curves outward is used to call attention to natural/organic products, says Overschmidt.  
The specialty confections set is included in other supermarkets within the chain where the demographics of the neighborhood support it, says Overschmidt. In fact, he continues, the candy order is customized on a store-by-store basis. Thanks to the upscale clientele at Metro Market, he opts to “layer on the prestige confections,” a bit more heavily both for everyday and seasonally, he notes. There can be little doubt that that approach is fun for him and Metro Market shoppers.
Roundy’s Wrap-Up
In addition to its Metro Market store, Milwaukee-based Roundy’s operates 154 supermarkets under the Pick ‘n Save, Copps and Rainbow Foods banners in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois. Plans to expand into the Chicago marketplace are in the works.
Chocolate molten center cupcakes, dark milk chocolate pear cake and chocolate mousse were on the menu one evening this spring at a tasting event sponsored by Milwaukee-based Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company at the downtown Roundy’s Metro Market store.

Omanhene had previously sold its products primarily to specialty retailers, chefs and gift basket purveyors, so the decision by Roundy’s buyers to stock its distinctive made-in- Ghana chocolate bars, hot cocoa mix, and baking chocolate was cause for celebration for the small, but growing company. The festive sampling event drew raves from several hundred Metro Market customers who enjoyed the chocolate delicacies.

The discriminating shoppers who patronize the Metro Market are a perfect audience for such an upscale offering, notes candy category manager Mike Overschmidt. And, he adds, he appreciates the awareness-building initiatives from the relatively small company.