Category Captain: Commercial Baked Goods: Sara Lee

Sara Lee’s category leadership program “S.L.I.C.E.” (Sara Lee Insights for Category Excellence) provides category/shopper insights that are the foundation of a multitude of category-driving initiatives. The program was recognized in the industry with rankings of No. 1 and No. 8 in category management by Cannondale and AG Performance Monitor in 2010. Additionally, Sara Lee received the best scores in commercial baked goods for category management in a recent Kroger/dunnhumby review.

Over the past year, Sara Lee Fresh Bakery has had significant success with several targeted initiatives. Its “Bread Aisle Reinvention” program aims to organize, optimize and innovate the fresh bread aisle, which has historically been organized in vendor blocks. As Sara Lee sees it, the innovate phase is where the disciplines of category management and shopper marketing come together to enhance the overall fresh bakery category experience and make its retail partners the stores of choice for category purchases.

Sara Lee measures results by keeping a scorecard on each of its retail accounts. The scorecards report on the category’s sales performance in test vs. control stores. Retailers have experienced a 2.7 percent lift in category sales, according to Sara Lee. This growth is driven by positive lift across all category segments and vendors.

As for product innovation, Sara Lee strives to introduce items that drive incremental volume and minimize cannibalization for the category. In some instances, “innovation” means expanding regional top performers and their benefit to more markets and retailers.

In March 2011, for instance, the company expanded distribution of its Ball Park hot dog and hamburger buns, just in time for the key bun selling season (April to September). Product sales grew from $24 million to $73 million, and the product segment is up 4.9 percent in dollar sales -- 0.1 percent vs. a year ago in the latest period.

In another example, Sara Lee Iron Kids Better White Bread, which is fortified with fiber and calcium, was expanded nationally in late July 2011. The bread was already a leading and highly incremental SKU (21 percent of volume is incremental) for the category in select markets.

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