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Balsamic vinegar. (Oils, Vinegars, & Sauces).

SNAPSHOTS

Use the new balsamic vinegar-rating system to encourage the purchasing of more than one type of balsamic vinegar.

Assemble a "Dieter's Flavor Center" that shows how to add flavor back to bland diet food.

Include balsamic vinegar in celebration of the foods of Emilia-Romagna as part of an Italian Food Promotion.

Offer recipes and serving suggestions during all your balsamic promotions.

Balsamic vinegar has almost become a household word these days. Along with extra-virgin olive oil, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and arugula, it has moved from obscurity to celebrity in a relatively short amount of time. And yet most Americans still largely misunderstand it and intimidation causes hesitation at the point of sale. Afraid of making the wrong choice, or suspecting that there is little difference, customers will often choose the least-expensive brand. Not that there is anything wrong with buying $4 or $5 bottles of balsamic vinegar, but they are missing out on a world of opportunities by not trying other quality levels of balsamic vinegar. In other words, the retailer's challenge lies not in getting people to buy a bottle, but in inspiring them to buy two or three different ones.

RAISING THE FLAGS OF QUALITY

Confusion about why one bottle of balsamic vinegar costs $4 and another costs $100 can often be an anxiety-provoking situation that can scare customers away from the category completely. Or, just as wine list-fearing diners will keep ordering the house Chardonnay because it's the only wine they recognize, cooks will stick with their basic balsamic vinegar because they know it and are comfortable using it to make their balsamic vinaigrette. At last, the clever balsamic makers have devised a rating system that is both easy to read and understand and one in which the various uses for the different quality levels are clearly defined. The new system uses banners--in red, silver, gold, and black--and grapevine leaves to distinguish the qualitative differences in the vinegars, ranging from one leaf for basic everyday use up to four leaves delineating the top level, which is used by the drop. These little banners can be used to help effectively merchandise your balsamic vinegar selection.

Start by raising a banner of your own. Put up a sign over your Balsamic Display that reads, "We've Raised the Flag of Quality on Balsamic Vinegar." On a chart next to the display, or on the banner overhead, depict the balsamic-rating banners and the definitions of each level. Offer tastings, recipes, and serving suggestions for each level, along with recommended brands. Make it a balsamic center, completely removing the guesswork from the choosing. The more informed the customers are about balsamic vinegar, as well as the uses for the various kinds, the more apt they will be to purchase multiple bottles for their home use.

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE

Since balsamic vinegar is less overtly acidic than other types of vinegars, a lot less oil is required to emulsify it, and therefore, it can be at the heart of a low-fat diet regimen. Balsamic vinegar of any quality level is so packed with flavor that it can effectively enhance bland steamed food. Highlight the unique attributes of balsamic vinegar in a promotion aimed at the diet-conscious among your clientele. Try putting together a display called "The Dieter's Flavor Center" that assembles a group of condiments that are naturally low in fat but have bold, clean flavors to act in the place of fat. The products could include hot sauces, salsas, fresh and dried chiles, mustards, Asian sauces, and of course, a selection of varying levels of balsamic vinegar. Fat is responsible for a great deal of the flavor in our food, so if one is going to remove the fat from a dish, you need to put something back in it to compensate for the flavor loss.

Some of the recommended dietary uses for balsamic vinegar are drizzling it on steamed vegetables; poached, skinless chicken breast; or grilled salmon steaks; adding it to simple broth and soups; marinating meats and seafood in it before grilling or broiling; and adding a few drops of traditional balsamic to fresh strawberries or peaches to serve instead of rich desserts. Once your dieting customers discover that they don't have to give up flavor to lose weight, they will be balsamic vinegar buyers for life.

ITALY'S BREADBASKET

Traditional balsamic vinegar is made in the province of Modena in the Emilia-Romagna region, which many people consider to have the greatest food in all of Italy. For your next Italian Food Promotion, try taking a regional view and celebrate the glorious foods of Emilia-Romagna--balsamic vinegar, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, prosciutto di Parma ham, mortadella sausage, and the great pasta dishes like tortellini and tagliatelle with plenty of Bolognese sauce. Celebrating a region's foods and culture is always fun, and putting balsamic vinegar and other products in the context of their own cuisines can help people understand them better and inspire them to use them more than ever. With more people travelling to Italy, the event will appeal to both those coming and going.
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Title Annotation:vinegar-rating system
Publication:Gourmet Retailer
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2002
Words:842
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