2019 Category Advisors
Avocados From Mexico
After spending more than a year on in-depth analysis, custom research and testing to better understand consumer needs, Avocados from Mexico (AFM) identified a major barrier to purchase: Some shoppers just don’t understand enough about the fruit. Key consumer concerns include knowing when avocados are ripe, selecting the best product, and how to best preserve and serve it. One study revealed that 73% of shoppers would be more likely to purchase more avocados if they understood more about the product.
AFM responded by introducing an educational initiative called Ready When You’re Ready that provides guidance not only to consumers, but also to retailers and restaurant operators. The program includes a playbook with tools, best practices and techniques.
In addition to its educational initiative, AFM joined forces with food-wrap category leader Glad to get out the message about how best to preserve avocados. Using 1.49 million digital coupons and 2,775 in-store education-focused sampling activations at the country’s two largest retailers, AFM and Glad reached more than 1 million people this past spring. The sampling events alone drove velocity for AFM, resulting in a significant lift in total unit sales.
Over the past year, Bayer HealthCare continued to pursue growth and opportunity in three mature categories: nutritionals, sun care and upper respiratory.
Even though nutritionals is the second-largest HBC category and is benefiting from the current awareness regarding health and wellness, it’s facing challenges — namely a decrease in retailer loyalty and the expansion of online sales. Based on extensive consumer and shopper research, Bayer developed a category framework that includes embracing a more expansive view of the category; identifying strategic growth drivers, including the themes of Restore & Rebalance, Foundational Well-Being, and Natural & Authentic; and implementing simple, actionable shopper targeting that aligns with retailer priorities. So far, Bayer has received positive retailer response as it has begun implementing these initiatives.
In sun care, meanwhile, Bayer committed significant resources to help understand challenges to the category and to identify emerging trends. The company developed a Vision Process Roadmap to guide future strategic and tactical development. Key elements include better defining sun care, identifying growth pillars and enablers, and overcoming barriers and capitalizing on shopper triggers. In the period ending Sept. 15, category dollar sales experienced their highest level of growth since 2016.
Lastly, Bayer reinforced its strong commitment to upper respiratory by unveiling a comprehensive category strategy platform that will serve as a framework for the future. The shopper-oriented framework identifies growth pillars that speak to prevention, not just treatment. Bayer is exploring cross purchase opportunities via pre-store and in-store solutions. Its efforts seem to be making an impact, as the upper respiratory category increased in dollar sales for the period ending Sept. 15.
The Coca-Cola Co.
As the leader of the flavored sparkling soft-drink category, Coca-Cola saw an opportunity to renew the segment with a three-pronged approach: improve the visual identity system across the brand’s flavor portfolio, innovate with the first highly differentiated new flavor in more than a decade and invest further in the success of Coke flavors. Its new flavor, Coke Orange Vanilla, has exceeded company expectations and has met its goal of attracting new users as well as loyal Coke drinkers. It has driven more than $125 million in incremental retail dollars since its launch, according to the company.
To support the launch, Coca-Cola invested in a 360-degree consumer engagement plan using local radio, digital, mobile, social, retail trial, point of sale, experiential sampling, and more. The plan also successfully leveraged Coke’s partnership with NCAA March Madness by launching Coke Orange Vanilla during the basketball tournament. More than 20 national retailer customers leveraged NCAA and Coke Vanilla Orange programs for in-store execution.
Separately, Coca-Cola worked with retailers to roll out Coke Orange Vanilla through multiple shopper marketing strategies, including colorful in-store signage, shelf displays and brand blocks prominently featuring all Coke flavors.
Fresh Express’ multifaceted category management program includes an expanded technology platform to maximize category opportunity and validate competitive strategies, targeted marketing and innovation execution, and partnerships with key retailers to develop and deliver best-in-class solutions.
The brand’s tools and research found that chopped-kit distribution and portfolio expansion were key platforms for incremental category growth. Based on the insights provided, the innovation team developed products to complement Fresh Express’ current selection of chopped kits.
To find space for these new items, Fresh Express used software to give quantifiable recommendations based on velocity and space to sales, even incorporating shrink into the decision-making. Detecting key growth segments, allocating the proper space, and proper promotional support were critical to success. The offerings have increased basket size and accelerated salad sales.
The brand’s efforts have already paid dividends: Year-to-date chopped-kit dollar sales and units are up significantly.
GSK Consumer Healthcare
GSK Consumer Healthcare has made great strides in boosting the allergy, digestive and smoking cessation categories at its retailer partners’ stores.
For allergy, GSK developed new in- and out-of-store activations that are being tested at different retailers, and its brands are changing their narrative to address sufferers’ issues. Consequently, the category, after being flat to even slightly declining at times over the past few years, has begun growing again: For the latest 52 weeks ending Sept. 8, total allergy was up 0.8%, with GSK’s Flonase pacing this growth. Private label has also benefited, up 2.4% as education on different product alternatives increases.
GSK, with such digestive health brands as Prevacid, Tums, Gas-X, Ex-Lax and Benefiber, is championing new go-to-market strategies. The company is now partnering with retailers to better segment the category and develop more targeted shopper marketing activities. This work is paying off, as the $5.7 billion category grew 2.3% in the 52 weeks ending Sept. 8. Unit sales have increased as well, up 1.8%, meaning that current users are buying more, and new users are entering the category.
Key pillars focusing on quit motivations, in-store execution and shopper targeting provided the foundation for a new go-to-market smoking cessation strategy, which has seen concrete merchandising changes as it rolls out to retail. This, combined with new mini-lozenges from GSK’s Nicorette, have kept the category growing while helping more smokers quit. While the category was up 1.7% last year, for the 52 weeks ending Sept. 8, the category increased 2.1% as category growth further accelerates, with Nicorette driving this growth.
Idaho Potato Commission
To prove that displays, not deep discounts, can drive category growth, the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC) teamed with a West Coast retailer on a 10-store test placing secondary-display bins for 10 weeks in various locations.
As potatoes are a known driver of larger basket sizes, with an average ring of $77.95 per trip, secondary displays can persuade customers to purchase potatoes and increase overall store sales.
The secondary-display bins had a positive impact on 5-pound Idaho russet bag sales, russet variety sales and overall potato category sales. Five-pound Idaho russet dollar sales increased 22% over last year in test stores and 2.5% in control stores. Total potato category dollar growth of 6.3% in test stores versus year ago almost doubled the 3.2% growth in control stores.
The test led to the creation of a profit calculator that IPC retail promotion directors use to illustrate for retailers the effectiveness of placing secondary displays.
Armed with a study it conducted with IRI that identified the high interaction between dry packaged potatoes and stuffing, pasta and rice mixes, and instant rice, Idahoan is guiding retailers in proper set, adjacencies and flow. The company worked with one grocer to develop an optimal assortment, merchandising by segment first, and then by brand. The layout also changed from a horizontal brand/segment block to vertical blocks to make it easier for shoppers to locate and purchase multiple flavors, thereby increasing overall basket size. The category is growing 6%, outpacing the rest of the market, which is 2%.
Idahoan is also testing an in-aisle convenience/snack subset including cups and microwave items from various categories, and marketing regional cheese flavors of mashed potatoes.
Additionally, Idahoan provided free pouches of potatoes to a retailer’s targeted shoppers to increase household penetration, and developed custom multipack options of flavored mashed potatoes for several online retailers.
Ocean Mist Farms
Upon discovering that top artichoke retailers sell four or more unique artichoke items, both organic and conventional, Ocean Mist Farms introduced a variety of pack sizes to drive retail success. The new items included organic retail packs and 4-count clamshells made with recyclable corrugated and post-consumer material, respectively.
Ocean Mist runs at least three consumer promotions annually to align with key eating occasions and support year-round artichoke production. The fact that high-velocity artichoke retailers sell 30% of artichokes on promotion speaks to the necessity of consumer promotions that support in-store sales via e-coupons and product locator tools.
The company’s marketing efforts, using social platforms, weekly blogs, influencer partners and email marketing, have resulted in a dramatic improvement in artichoke knowledge among consumers, removing barriers and ultimately strengthening in-store artichoke sales.
Additionally, Ocean Mist Farms saw an increase in artichoke sales this past summer through strategic creative retail displays and well-executed promotions.
The Pharmavite category management team continuously engages and prepares comprehensive insights that help retail buyers make focused business decisions. Product opportunities are based on consumer and customer research, aimed at developing national and retail promotional events, displays, mobile influencers, and targeted marketing.
Pharmavite creates need-state merchandising within a 4-foot shelf where shoppers can linger over offerings displayed for everyday use as well as peak seasonal periods such as January (New Year, New You); February (Heart Health Month); October (Women’s Health Month); late October (“fall back,” melatonin to promote sleep); and November (immune care season).
Newly launched gummie supplements support purchase for key need states and drive incremental growth: prenatal (choline for brain development), melatonin 10 milligrams (for restful sleep), vitamin D and elderberry. Prompted by new FDA regulations, renovated labels offer more shopper-friendly packaging: green for general heath, pink for women’s multis and prenatal, purple for beauty care, dark blue for sleep health, and orange for immune care.
Reynolds Consumer Products
In the grand scheme of the grocery store, parchment paper may be a relatively obscure category, but it’s a necessity for many home cooks and bakers. Reynolds Consumer Products saw an opportunity to help retailers drive incremental category growth by combining its in-depth understanding of consumer product usage with an innovative product offering, delivering measured success to retailers in food and mass channels.
By leveraging a demand landscape study, Reynolds helped retailers tailor their strategies across merchandising, assortment, pricing, advertising, convenience and customer service to better accommodate consumers and improve the shopping experience. The company improved products and their positioning to better meet consumer needs, including cooking versus baking, experienced and “exploratory” cooks, traditional expertise, and need for specific-size sheets without cutting and waste.
Narrower pop-up sheets and compostable parchment paper are among the innovations that are proving to grow incremental sales for Reynolds’ retailer partners.
Picking a perfectly ripened piece of fruit can be a challenge for many consumers.
Washington state grower Stemilt stepped up with the Operation Flavor initiative and its RipeRite program for pears, to deliver d’Anjou and Red d’Anjou pears to retail at a “near-ripe and ready to eat” stage. The idea is that retailers that carry ripened fruit will sell it at quicker rates, because the fruit is ready to eat soon after purchase.
A New England grocery chain started carrying Stemilt’s 100% ripened pears in January 2019 and developed a strong promotional plan around the move. By May, the grocer reported double-digit volume and dollar lifts compared with the prior-year period, boosting the pear category and overall produce sales.
Operation Flavor also included a company ban on anti-ripening agents, which shortened the selling window on winter pears but enhanced flavor and juiciness. Stemilt’s retailer partners saw immediate category results; consumers also voiced their satisfaction with the brand.
Topco Associates LLC
Providing support to a retailer partner experiencing a drop in own-brand diaper sales amid overall category growth, Topco partnered with the grocer to support the Tippy Toes brand, positioned to provide baby care products that meet national-brand quality at more affordable prices.
Recognizing that Tippy Toes shoppers have higher-than-average baskets, Topco and the retailer took a different approach through placement, product and pricing/promotions. By featuring quality and absorbency, implementing strategic positioning and adding convenience sizes, Topco and its partner were able to widen the gap in pricing versus the national brand.
The result: the member’s diaper sales are experiencing double-digit growth, with own brands up more significantly. The retailer’s reaction: “I’m really excited by the direction we are moving in as partners!”
Unilever’s category management team raised the bar in multiple categories this past year, helping retailers outpace their competitive markets. In frozens, the company evaluated floor plans at one of its regional retailer accounts and decided to make more space for one of the category’s top performers: super-premium. That change alone helped catapult sales.
Meanwhile, in hair care, Unilever worked on a clustering project with a select retailer to capitalize on the growth of both natural/salon products and dry shampoo. These segments were given special placement, and the total hair category experienced growth as a result.
Last but not least, Unilever worked to drive conversion of the highly penetrated soap category by placing select SKUs in the grocery aisles. This placement allowed for greater visibility of naturals, a growing segment within the soap category.