Connecting at WGA Innovation Expo

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Connecting at WGA Innovation Expo


Wisconsin grocers and their supplier partners met in the Wisconsin Dells Oct. 15-16, for the annual Wisconsin Grocers Association (WGA) Innovation Expo. The event included presentations, and a trade show and promotions showcase, as well as the Great Wisconsin Bag-Off, where quick-packing grocery baggers vied for a coveted spot in the 2014 National Best Bagger Competition at the National Grocers Association (NGA) conference in Las Vegas in February.

Progressive Grocer’s Joan Driggs (seen at left, center, with WGA Chairman Dave Spiegelhoff to her left and Brandon Scholz, WGA president/CEO) was the keynote presenter, giving attendees an in-depth look at “The Shifting Grocery Landscape,” which focused on four key trends: the blurring lines of grocery retailers, the role of grocery retailers in health care, the importance of engaging with new technologies to connect with consumers, and the similarities and needs of different generations of grocery shoppers. The presentation will be made available on

In his presentation, “Coupon Futures,” Dan Shaul of St. Louis-based coupon redemption processor American Coupon Services and director of the Missouri State Grocers Association, provided a look at coupons, which are undergoing tremendous changes due to digital and paperless technologies. More than 305 billion coupons, comprising both food and nonfood, are distributed annually. Nonfood coupons are gaining (up 4.4 percent), while food coupons are slipping (down 6.5 percent); the total number of distributed coupons, however, remains the same from 2011 to 2012. Top coupons include pet food, vitamins and supplements, hair care, and oral hygiene.

Citing NCH data, Shaul noted that 51.4 percent of coupons are free-standing inserts, 18.2 percent are in/on pack, 14.2 percent are in-store, and 16.2 percent are all other media. But all other media includes Internet/print-at-home (5.6 percent of total coupons); direct mail (4.2 percent); military (2.4 percent); mobile (1.3 percent); and “other” 2.7 percent). According to Shaul, during the past three years, there have been no legitimate “free” coupons printed at home. Self-printing coupons are more easily manipulated, he said, but quality grocery programs will be synchronized with legitimate coupons.

While digital and paperless coupons remain at the low end of offered coupons, they are where shifts are taking place. “Digital coupons have come of age,” Shaul said. According to the NCH data, 7 percent of coupon technology is digital and/or paperless, with signs of becoming a much bigger slice of the coupon pie.

Joe Laufenberg, loss prevention director of Skogen’s Festival Foods, based in Onalaska, Wis., presided over a panel focused on loss prevention. Laufenberg outlined tactics his company has taken to reduce “shrink,” which is reported to be 2.7 percent of total retail sales industry-wide.

“We don’t want to catch people stealing,” said Laufenberg. “We want to prevent people from stealing.” The company has initiated a number of programs, including cameras and other monitoring, access, and alarm technologies, but the best programs, Laufenberg said, include employee engagement. Technology by itself will not reduce shrink, it’s the people supporting what the technology can do that reduces shrink, he noted. Supplier partners sharing their technologies included Todd Pelot, security consultant with Per Mar Security Services; Mike Schaden, regional account manager, North Country Business Products; and Lou Riccomini, Northeast market manager, Open Eye.

An interesting feature of the trade show was the presence of “Something Special from Wisconsin” member exhibitors. Something Special from Wisconsin is a marketing program administered by the Division of Agricultural Development of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. The organization supports products attributable to Wisconsin ingredients, production or processing.

Something Special from Wisconsin partners with Wisconsin grocery retailers to provide local goods to customers. Retailers have hailed the program as a way to further connect with their customers and to demonstrate support of their surrounding community. In addition, the products themselves often provide a point of difference from the competition.

Rounding out an annual highlight of the WGA show, Rachel Martin, Larry’s Piggly Wiggly, Little Chute, Wis., bested 19 other contestants to take the title of Wisconsin’s Best Bagger 2013. Martin won a trip to the 2014 National Best Bagger Competition, to be held at the NGA Show in Las Vegas in February 2014.