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12/07/2021

Meet This Year's Category Captains

Now in its 25th year, Progressive Grocer’s awards program recognizes exceptional efforts of suppliers that collaborate with retailers to serve shoppers and grow sales
Lynn Petrak
Senior Editor
Lynn Petrak profile picture
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Meet This Year's Category Captains

The discipline of category management has changed dramatically since the inception of Progressive Grocer’s Category Captains program 25 years ago. This program was conceived at a time when the notion of retailers and suppliers working together against one version of the truth — essentially point-of-sales data — was emerging as a new way of working among trading partners.

Collaboration among trading partners has changed dramatically in the intervening years. Insights are deeper, shopper segments are more thinly sliced, methods of engagement are broader, and joint business planning occurs over longer time horizons, especially among larger retailers and their supplier counterparts.

This mix was thrown into disarray at the onset of the pandemic, and that caused PG to adjust the criteria on which Category Captains entries were judged. As pandemic conditions persisted in 2021, disrupting shopper behaviors, supply chains and promotional efforts, the judging criteria continue to prioritize speed, agility and resourcefulness based on dynamic market conditions.

What hasn’t changed about Category Captains is the ongoing focus on leadership among suppliers, those companies that work closely with retailers, offer great products, leverage consumer insights, provide accurate demand forecasts, have agile supply chains, make data-driven pricing and promotion decisions, employ advanced analytics, and drive demand through innovative shopper engagement strategies.

These are just a few of the broad attributes that make a supplier worthy of the distinction of Category Captain. To help the team at PG evaluate entries, we asked questions such as:

  • What was the most important shopper insight or innovation you brought to your retail partners?
  • How did your organization address pandemic-driven supply chain challenges to ensure that retailers of all types had adequate product quantities?
  • What new methods of collaborating with retailers were especially innovative or creative?
  • How did new insights or innovations that your company developed build total category volume?
  • How did initiatives promote connectivity between complementary store departments, and boost basket size, trips or overall store sales?
  • How did your initiative invigorate a dormant or declining category, or create a new one to address an unmet consumer need?
  • How were digital methods such as social  media or retail media leveraged?

This year’s entries were all  impressive. The level of creativity displayed by suppliers when working with retailers to serve mutual customers continues to grow and take the concept of category management in new directions, way beyond what existed when this program first launched. Meet this year’s record-setting crop of Category Captains …

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Abbott

During the peak of the pandemic in 2020, consumers went out less but bought more when they did. Abbott, an adult nutrition/diabetic nutrition (AN/DN) leader, responded accordingly.

Abbott’s consumer insights led its teams to change tactics to provide what shoppers clearly wanted. In the AN/DN segment, Abbott developed the first-ever large pack of its Ensure and Glucerna products, and supported the launch with a customer merchandising solution that included shoppable displays at one of its major retailer partners, featuring out-of-aisle secondary merchandising in the pharmacy and health/beauty area. 

The program provided additional inventory at a time of surging demand, reduced out-of-stocks, filled distribution gaps and, ultimately, drove market share. Today, the category at this retailer is up 10.6%, with gains in the adult segment driven by Ensure and increases in the diabetic segment led by Glucerna. 

The same shift to large packs was seen in the balanced-nutrition category. Using its insights, Abbott built a new merchandising planogram for this segment and created a phased approach to rollout. Retailers that remerchandised aisle entries with large pack sizes saw more than a 6% increase in total category shopper retention. Abbott also reported that large-pack buyers of its balanced-nutrition products are spending two times more and repeating more often. 

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Amplify Snack Brands

At-home consumers snacked more frequently during the global health crisis, often reaching for better-for-you (BFY) salty snacks. As mindless noshing turned to mindful eating, the BFY subcategory within salty snacks outpaced overall category growth, vaulting to a 7.4% increase for the 52 weeks ending Sept. 12. 

The Amplify Snack Brands group from The Hershey Co., which offers BFY products under the SkinnyPop, Pirate’s Booty and Paqui brands, redoubled its efforts during this time. The company recognized that BFY shoppers spend more on salty snacks that fit their lifestyles: For every $1 that an average shopper spends on salty snacks, a BFY shopper spends $2.89. 

Amplify shifted its strategy to capitalize on the latest shopper tendencies and retailer dynamics, providing recommendations rooted in analytical rigor and substitutability modeling. The solution identified duplicative products and recommended productive and incremental item voids to drive greater category sales and profits. Amplify shared its learnings with key retailers — especially those with underdeveloped BFY assortments — to help them attract and retain more of today’s valuable health-and-wellness-oriented consumers. During this time, the company’s total brand sales accelerated 15.6%.  

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Anheuser-Busch

This perennial category captain adjusted its sails during the ebb and flow of this past year. At a time of changing consumer demands and varying usage occasions, Anheuser-Busch (A-B) worked with retailers to help them redesign their adult beverage departments, recommending alcohol macro space by category, such as warm and cold allocation and key category adjacencies. One major mass retailer that leveraged these recommendations reported that those stores have outperformed non-remodeled stores by seven percentage points. A-B also used its insights on hard-beverage trends to help a major grocer relocate its ready-to-drink cocktails to a cold wine space, leading to a 0.8% greater market share. 

Additionally, the company developed omnichannel solutions to increase the relevance of meal-and-alcohol pairings. A-B partnered with industry leaders to promote at-home barbecue occasions, driving a 38% increase in dollars for the categories across more than 600 activations at a top grocery retailer leading into the Labor Day holiday. 

A-B continually collaborates with retailers to help them drive online sales using a proprietary eRetail scorecard system, digital shelf optimization and thought leadership on today’s online shoppers. The company also recently opened a collaboration center in St. Louis called “The Vault,” where the company showcases trends, research and new products for retail partners. 

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B&G Foods

The strong rate of growth in frozen vegetables — up 19.2% in sales last year — begs the questions of who’s contributing to the renewed health in that category, and how can brands and retailers tap into the trend even more?

Last year, B&G Foods’ Green Giant brand determined growth drivers in the category as part of the Go Green initiative, discovering that much of the recent success could be attributed to younger health-and-wellness-minded shoppers interested in plant-based eating, low-carb offerings, convenience, value and sustainability. 

Through the Go Green program, which included both insights and retail solutions, B&G found that targeting Millennial-age consumers with social media marketing and better aiming education messaging and cross-item promotions helped elevate brand and category performance.

The initiative also discovered that retailers are interested in more strategic programming that teaches shoppers how the frozen vegetable category is evolving with innovative products and promotions. Green Giant’s experts recommended additional tactics to address these concerns, including the deployment of fewer but bigger and better promotions during key periods and use of demand-generating efforts throughout the year.

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Cacique LLC

Leading authentic Hispanic product producer Cacique focused on integration to improve category performance for retail partners. In-store, the company created destination sets that serve as a holistic Mexican food solution while also cross-promoting with complementary products like rotisserie chicken. New products, like a line of premium chorizo, kept the category dynamic.

Recognizing the importance of a seamless in-store and online experience, Cacique worked with retailers to accelerate digital programming and enhance the digital shelf through tools like digital coupons and “boosted” searches and advertising. The company also developed a fully integrated year-long marketing campaign, Your Auténtico Awaits, that helped consumers create an authentic experience while adding their own flair to dishes, while multicultural partnerships with customers around the country showcased its thought leadership.

Further elevating the category, Cacique shared key insights with retail partners, including findings of a consumer segmentation from which the shopper profiles and actionable insights were developed. Also, the manufacturer leveraged category management tools and price elasticity data with retailers, enabling it to maintain industry-leading case-fill rates.

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Chiquita Brands 

Chiquita didn’t let major marketplace disruptions affect its momentum. During an uncertain time that pretty much called out for comfort food, Chiquita extended its brand presence by teaming up with the Nutella brand on new co-developed recipes and adding a Chiquita banana bread recipe to Nutella jar lids. In-store and social media efforts exceeded expectations in target message reach, site visitors and paid social reach. In stores where both Chiquita and Nutella were present, dollar sales increased by 10% and volume sales rose 6% compared with 2019.

Also in 2020, Chiquita ran a six-week digital media ad campaign with a major U.S. retailer to increase banana-buying trips for lapsed buyers or nonbuyers of bananas. The effort generated sales 16.4 times the ad spend, with an incremental sales uplift of 102%. 

Focusing on sustainability also positively affected its category performance: Chiquita became the first global fruit company to have its goals and progress independently verified by the Science Based Targets initiative. 

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The Coca-Cola Co.

In the diet sparkling soft-drink category, industry stalwart Coca-Cola recently improved the taste, consistency and packaging of its Coca-Cola Zero Sugar offering. 

Leveraging the company’s longstanding partnerships with football teams, Coca-Cola rolled out a new marketing campaign that invited consumers to cheer on their favorite team with the Best Coke Ever. The updated Coca-Cola Zero Sugar packaging, which transitioned from black to red to enhance taste perception, could be customized for fans to see their favorite team at their local grocery store. 

The campaign included customizable in-store displays that resembled mini-branded stadiums, and a cross-category program with game-day recipe demonstrations by football talent to promote homegating. Creative elements included outdoor, retail, streaming audio, radio, video, digital and social channels, and mobile gamification.

Effective large-store channel activation drove the success of the relaunch, positively affecting the sparkling soft-drink category. Since the revamp, the product’s year-to-date growth rate has doubled in total retail and tripled in large stores, with strong results in the second-largest U.S. supermarket chain, which reported an eightfold gain. Moreover, with 18% of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar buyers new to the beverage post-relaunch, base velocity is up 34% over 2019.

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Dole  Food Co.

Up against market headwinds and actual hurricane-force winds, Dole Food Co. still ratcheted up its category leadership. The brand addressed increasing demand for restaurant-style experiences at home by adding a new line of salad kits called Just Add Chicken. The move resonated with premium shoppers, brought new buyers to the category, drove multiple salad purchases and increased basket size. 

On top of other major market disruptions, Dole contended with hurricane damage in its production areas in Honduras and Guatemala in November 2020, which limited supply and caused volume loss. Dole partnered with retailers to mitigate their financial impacts and shared price elasticity insights.  

Finally, in light of changing consumer behaviors, Dole gained revealing category insights by partnering with NielsenIQ to analyze how households shop, identifying purchase drivers for items like ready-to-eat products, kits and salad mixes. One major retail partner used the findings to develop distinct strategies for each of those subgroups that ultimately delivered a category sales increase of 13.1% and a 10.8% jump in unit sales. 

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E. & J. Gallo Winery

The hard-seltzer category is on a roll, experiencing dramatic growth for five consecutive years. While some brands experienced sales drop-offs, the High Noon brand from E. & J. Gallo Winery is still on a high, thanks to innovative retail promotions capitalizing on consumers’ penchant for switching from vodka and value seltzer brands to spirits seltzers.  

With a 79% share of the spirits seltzer segment, High Noon outperformed the category in basket ring, basket lift and unit sales per trip through a variety of tactics, including point-of-sale display kits featuring partner Barstool Sports that propelled a notable sales lift. The brand also supported one retail partner’s e-commerce promotions with digital assets, and executed virtual demos that included QR codes linking back to informational videos. 

This ability to pivot proved crucial to the company’s category success: During a supply chain shortage, E. & J. Gallo sourced aluminum from new international manufacturers and worked with co-manufacturing plants to integrate them into a single automated IT system. 

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Eagle Family Foods Group LLC

At-home baking took off during the pandemic, which was a boon to Eagle Foods and its retail partners. The producer of staple baking products, including condensed and evaporated milk, deployed strategies designed to “retain the gain” of baking product sales.

Highlights from the initiative included a “good, better, best” tiered pricing architecture that yielded a more than 10% bump in retail profits. In-season tailored promotions featuring “baking center” displays increased traffic and transactions, and retailers were advised to schedule merchandising activity at peak times when weekly volume was twice as high as the off-season. 

In the off-season — i.e., beyond the peak baking periods of holidays — the company helped retailers enhance consumer interest in the baking supply aisle with marketing efforts that included regional and ethnic recipes. Eagle Foods also recommended a reduction in deep discounting during the off-season to maintain profitable growth supported by usage messaging. 

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Flowers Foods Inc.

With higher base sales contributing to significant growth in commercial packaged breads over the past couple of years and likely into 2022, Flowers Foods worked with retailers to keep that growth on track and provide solutions to both shoppers and grocers.

To make it easier for consumers to buy bread – including more than one product purchase per transaction – Flowers sought to improve traffic flow in the typically large commercial bread aisle. The company implemented a shopper-based merchandising strategy designed to determine which bread segments have the highest interactions and would work well merchandised together for optimal sales. Stores that followed the new merchandising flow expanded their total bread category sales by 4.7% and also grew their share of market by 43 basis points. 

Flowers Foods also devised a new promotional strategy focused on the bundling of highly interacting bread segments, which has been successfully used by several of its retail partners. Retail bread category managers reported that this strategy works because it’s supported by clear shopper data.

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Fresh Express

Value-added salads can provide value for retailers as well as shoppers. Case in point: Fresh Express created a multifaceted and ultimately successful program to maximize sales of its packaged salads at a time when many consumers were splurging on premium and convenient food items at home, pulling back spending on travel and other pursuits during the pandemic.

The program was based on insights showing that the packaged salad category is more resilient to price increases, due to shoppers’ interest in foods that are plant-based, healthy, convenient and flavorful. Subsequent messaging highlighted ways that shoppers could enjoy chef-inspired meals at home and relieve any pandemic-related cooking fatigue with easy-to-enjoy salads, including innovative items.

As another way to build frequency and volume, Fresh Express recommended boosting promoted pricing from two for $5 to two for $6 or $7, and encouraged “three-for” promotions in segments with higher units and trips. This tactic — again based on insights — resulted in increased category sales, larger basket sizes, the identification of underperforming brands, and increased efficiency via minimized shrink. 

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Good Culture

A mature category, cottage cheese received some renewed vigor with products and promotions from Good Culture. The brand, which offers certified-organic, pasture-raised, and stabilizer- and additive-free cottage cheese, drew new and younger shoppers through innovative products and targeted efforts to its core shoppers: Millennial moms and young transitionals.

Through its consumer research, Good Culture learned that cultured-dairy shoppers often have an “autopilot” mentality when shopping for cottage cheese and sour cream, typically picking whatever brand they grew up eating. A combination of disruptive packaging, shopper marketing and promotional strategies enabled the brand to effectively reach consumers who didn’t realize that there was a better alternative.

As a result of its production, packaging and promotional efforts, Good Culture is now the fastest-growing overall cottage cheese brand and the top natural brand in its category, contributing to overall category growth in the United States. Category initiatives and sales success have helped the company position itself as a joint business-planning partner with key retailers.

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GSK Consumer Healthcare

The recent spotlight on health and wellness catapulted the vitamin, mineral and supplement (VMS) category, which was already growing before the pandemic. As the pandemic helped spark 33% growth in the immunity category, GSK focused on maintaining and accelerating growth.

To ensure that gains seen during the pandemic were sustained, GSK began with a deep dive into new VMS and immunity users, determining that there was a strong opportunity to encourage the use of immune supplements year-round. 

The company created a segmentation strategy designed to unlock the full potential of these products among key consumer groups. Elements included a menu of actionable in-store and online solutions designed to address each segment and overcome barriers that often prevent consumers from taking all actions possible to support their healthy lifestyles.

In-store solutions included an Immunity Revolution end cap display; signage cubes with messaging on immune support, vitamin support, hydration support and personal care; and a post-purchase flier for pharmacy customers. An immune support add-on was also developed for online shoppers.

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The Hershey Co.

The Hershey Co. is responding to different growth drivers in the candy category by unwrapping a multipronged approach. The company used robust consumer insights to work with retailers to modify their space and assortment based on changing consumer behaviors. Data supporting trends like family movie nights, gaming and at-home baking led to some of those modifications that resulted in double-digit category sales growth and purchase frequency.

Consumers’ expressed desire for personalized solutions led to the development of Hershey’s Build Your Own Six Pack, which optimized opportunities in the instant consumables space. Displays set up near alternative payment areas and on beacon end caps and shelving adjacent to the candy aisle, along with point-of-sale signage and bundled pricing, contributed to 25% to 30% growth at participating stores. 

Other insights showing the importance of the digital experience led Hershey to guide its retail partners to drive more digital candy category awareness. Merchandising candy with affinity categories, balancing package types on the first page, providing additional packtype breakouts and introducing a new seasonal landing page led to increased shoppability, conversion, and spend per customer.

Hershey also bolstered its relationship with Hispanic retailers by developing customized solutions like the promotion of the Hershey’s, Reese’s and Kit Kat brands, which overindex with Hispanic consumers. The company created digital ads spotlighting confections as part of popular Hispanic holidays and added racks with bilingual messaging.

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Hormel Foods Corp.

Balancing technology and interpersonal relationships has been pivotal to Hormel Foods’ success as a category captain. From an insights standpoint, Hormel’s retail sales group used a strategic pricing tool to identify opportunities for mutual growth and profitability, leading to data-driven conversations about price optimization and promotional pricing amid the pandemic and supply chain disruptions. 

Also in the past year, Hormel created an automated tool with logic to allocate inventory and automatically update purchase orders based on a variety of factors. This tool enables Hormel to talk with buyers about the most optimal ordering quantities.

To bolster its retailer relationships, Hormel revamped its sales team for the first time in almost 20 years. The human capital restructuring maximizes available resources and helps retailers lean more into e-commerce. 

Hormel also invested more in its own e-commerce team and in consumer studies to drive more growth in the online channel. Through those learnings, the company developed new products like Hormel Black Label Breakfast Combos, Hormel Black Label egg bites and Herdez avocado hot sauce that support longer-term category growth.

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Idaho Potato Commission

Like the crop it promotes, the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC) achieved growth by staying grounded. This year, IPC used data to help retailers understand the importance of promoting the right products to grow the total category instead of focusing on the gourmet category or other ideas.

These insights enabled IPC to drive more strategic decisions among its retail partners. For example, a large West Coast retailer decided to forgo its normal advertising schedule for 24-ounce packs and go with IPC’s new data-driven tactics. The retailer advertised russet potatoes, the top-volume mover in its region, and strategically merchandised around those items. During two weeks in March, the retailer performed 16% better than the rest of the market, and grew russet sales 30% compared with the same time frame the prior year.

In addition to optimizing insights to make informed decisions, IPC helped retailers achieve category success through its team of professional category advisors. Working closely with grocers, the advisors analyzed retailers’ data to optimize their respective promotional strategies.

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Kellogg Co.

It’s a category captain for many retailers, but the Kellogg Co. might be described as an admiral at the helm.

Kellogg recently created a new omnichannel framework called SNACK to create seamless digital and in-store operations, with features like “searchendizing” that define where best to place and maximize investments, along with updated navigation, assortment and content tools. 

The in-store shelf has been another area of emphasis for Kellogg, which teamed with a software company and a large retailer-owned co-op to fine-tune a holistic macro and micro category management approach. This partnership led to an occasion-led aisle renovation at the co-op’s stores, leveraging Kellogg’s proprietary research combined with an interactive 3D cloud-based platform that allows for optimized aisle flow, category shelf space allocations, product placement and on-shelf capacity. Through this technology, team members from all groups can essentially walk through the store, navigate the aisle, select products from the shelf and make real-time decisions while viewing the layout from different office locations. 

Kellogg deployed innovative category-lifting tools earlier in the pandemic, too. The company leveraged virtual-reality stores that allow stakeholders to view the aisle on demand. Used by three of the top five U.S. food retailers, the technology elicited positive feedback from those that used the program to add products and make reconfigurations where needed.

The CPG giant also kept busy on the product development side to enliven categories. In the salty snack space, Kellogg created a new limited-edition Pringles item, a digital “non-fungible token” (NFT) called the CryptoCrisp; the animated artistic depiction of a gold Pringles can with cryptocurrency-inspired chips was an agile social-first idea and a product that sold out within an hour. Proceeds were donated to No Kid Hungry, a national campaign working to end childhood hunger. The Pringles brand also introduced a new (real) spicy chicken variety that garnered 1 billion earned impressions through a social media campaign. 

Looking ahead, Kellogg is embracing a proprietary dataset called Landmark that identifies more than 200,000 occasions that can fuel an interconnected commercial activation plan for retailers to target the right shopper at the right occasion. The company is using the dataset as part of an organizational transformation using occasions to capitalize on trends and further expansion opportunities. 

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Litehouse Foods

Litehouse Foods shook up the refrigerated salad dressing (RSD) category with several campaigns addressing new pain points emerging from the pandemic.

In late 2020, Litehouse launched a family-focused campaign with ideas and resources to keep families entertained during their time at home. The campaign, which included a landing page with family night ideas, weekly giveaways and a partnership with Redbox, resulted in a 47% increase in sales of Litehouse’s 20-ounce dressing over the same period in 2019. 

For all shoppers, Litehouse invested in targeted efforts like layering retailer purchase data with digital advertising to reach the right audience. The company also optimized shopper marketing efforts per retailer to better support partners and test new marketing tactics with trackable ROIs, including placing ads on retailer websites to target RSD shoppers in the online retail purchase path.

These and other category programs helped elevate results compared with pre-COVID levels, including increasing market share by 1.2 points and solidifying the company’s position as an RSD market leader. Litehouse’s RSD sales grew 11% year over year, two times the category growth.
 

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Monterey Mushrooms

Monterey Mushrooms recently worked with a traditional wholesaler that experienced reduced offerings due to supply chain challenges and low customer traffic. Monterey Mushrooms helped the wholesaler determine the right size set for them, what items needed to be placed in the set first, how to set everyday retails and how the category would be promoted. After following the recommended tactics, the wholesaler posted 23.3% sales growth compared with 12.6% growth among other retailers in the region.

Monterey Mushrooms also worked with a traditional retailer that had the right size set and assortment, but wasn’t growing at the same rate as other retailers in the region. A quick analysis of the category showed that its everyday retails were in conflict with each other. Out of the retailer’s 20 items, Monterey Mushrooms recommended eight increases and nine decreases to support a new strategy. That move had no impact on category markup, and the retailer saw a 3.1-point increase in sales over its current trends.

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NatureSweet

NatureSweet sensed a ripe opportunity in the digital space based on the pandemic-related spike in e-commerce and the lifestyle shift to cooking more at home. Adding a new digital marketing manager position, teaming with a new tech partner, revamping its website and launching new ads across digital platforms helped NatureSweet triple its website traffic and garner an eight- to 15-fold return on all investments. 

In addition, the company’s Associate Under the Label program, initially created to highlight its farmworkers, was expanded to include more associates, and QR codes were added to NatureSweet’s packaging, linking consumers to videos of associates sharing their unique stories. As a result of these changes, NatureSweet increased associate and consumer engagement by 15% across all social channels. 

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Nestlé Purina North America

You can teach an old dog new tricks — or at least, a heritage pet food brand can enhance its strategies to meet the needs of consumers and retailers in today’s ever-changing environment.

For Nestlé Purina North America, shifting and sometimes seismic market trends propelled its category team to reprioritize its focus to winning in an omnichannel landscape for both short- and long-term category growth. 

Noting the ways in which e-commerce is driving the majority of pet care sales and accounts for nearly three-fourths of the category’s growth over the past three years, Nestlé Purina homed in on versatility with the development of a new store-based retailer toolkit that includes an omnichannel perspective, activation framework, best practices and retail assessment. That strategic offering, which also maps the simultaneous strength of store-based retail, guides retailers as they seek to stay competitive in the dynamic pet care category. 

As a result of the new focus, Nestlé Purina is a pet category share leader in total e-commerce, and the top pet food company driving e-commerce growth. Ultimately, the company’s goal is to drive greater awareness and collaboration to build the best frictionless shopping experience that consumers now expect, given the realities of an omnichannel pet care category.

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Pharmavite LLC

Given the anxiety-causing events of the past couple of years, many consumers are wide awake at night. According to one study, 73% of people have sleep issues. Pharmavite LLC has witnessed this trend firsthand in the vitamin category, which has seen an influx of new shoppers.

These trends prompted Pharmavite to uncover fresh insights and debut a line of Nature Made Sleep Health items. Introduced this year, the products address consumers’ needs before sleep, during sleep, when falling back to sleep and after sleep.

In addition to these products, Pharmavite used new assortment optimization technology that identifies item-level incrementality and substitutable items within the category and the company’s brands. This helped clean the shelves of low-incremental items and created space for innovation.

Pharmavite also provided key insights to retail partners as a result of its research, including weekly demand shaping with details on in-stock conditions and real-time resource shifts that could ensure in-stock position on the shelf. That’s especially pivotal at a time when shoppers are mindful and concerned about product availability. 

Pharmavite reported that the new Nature Made Sleep Health items are fueling growth in the category and providing category gains for its retail customers, with 50% sales growth compared with last year and a 36% increase in trips and buyers. 

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Pompeian

In the olive oil category, Pompeian used data to inform category innovations and communications with its retail partners and consumers, driving existing shoppers to use more products and converting other shoppers.

Knowing the olive oil aisle traditionally takes 10 or more minutes to shop, Pompeian sought to simplify the process through in-store educational materials like floor graphics, shelf blades and shelf talkers. The company created new varieties and spread the shelf with incremental sizes to attract a broader range of consumers and build incremental category sales.

Pompeian promoted its innovations with paid media advertisements targeted at retailers and category stakeholders, resulting in more than 30 accounts accepting the new products. The company increased sales through digital- and social-first tactics like a tool that makes recipes on Pompeian.com more shoppable and an influencer program that drove Instacart cart additions. 

While data showed that category dollar sales have dipped slightly back from COVID-inflated peaks in 2020, Pompeian continued to bolster category sales growth above 2019 results — up 23% over two years ago. 

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Reynolds Consumer Products

Gaps mean opportunities for growth, and Reynolds Consumer Products (RCP) tapped into that mindset to attract a fast-rising group of consumers.

Recognizing the potential to reach more Hispanic shoppers within its Hefty Waste Bags franchise, RCP partnered with Venezuelan share leader Fabuloso Pourable Cleaners to launch a line of Hefty Ultra Strong Fabuloso-scented waste bags, which include tall kitchen and 30-gallon offerings. Not just a single addition, the launch is part of a long-term partnership designed to bring further innovation to the waste bag category and provide opportunities to cross-merchandise two important household categories at retail.

The launch has been successful, with the Hefty share of wallet among Hispanic shoppers growing 1.6 points to 13.3% in the 25 weeks since the introduction of Hefty Fabuloso. Among Hispanic shoppers, the Hefty brand has risen 19% in dollars, and trips have grown 9% since rollout. On a net impact basis, Hefty waste bags contributed 47% of the growth posted by the total category among Hispanic shoppers for that time period.

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Sanofi

While consumer health is a priority, Sanofi also likes to focus on the health of its categories. In the allergy category, the company understood that the aisle isn’t always easy to shop and invested in new research to better understand and address shopper barriers. Among other learnings, the company found that 75% of consumers know the brand they want, but it still takes 90 seconds for them to find it, while a third aren’t satisfied with what they’re currently taking.

After identifying key barriers and growth drivers in the allergy arena, Sanofi created solutions such as lifestyle-targeted social media marketing, educational signage and end cap displays, as well as landing pages and an allergy symptom app for retailers. In the 52 weeks ending Aug. 28, category trends increased 3.6% in dollars, while Sanofi’s Allegra brand was up 4.9% and its Xyzal brand posted a 9.3% gain. 

In the hand and body lotion (HBL) category, Sanofi found that the category was underperforming, ranking lower in terms of dollars, trips and penetration per household. The company fielded primary research and subsequently developed a category vision focused on accelerating HBL growth through a combination of in-store and out-of-store elements, including end cap displays, social media messaging, and landing page information and images. Although this HBL initiative is in the process of being shared with retailers, Sanofi reported that initial reactions have been strong.

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Scholl’s Wellness Co.

More than a century ago, Dr. William Scholl decided that people needed to take better care of their feet. Today, foot care, which is linked to various health conditions, drives more than $1.21 billion in sales, and Scholl’s Wellness Co. is still helping people take care of their feet.

The company recently invested in new shopper insights as a foundation for a sound strategy, using a shopper decision hierarchy showing how foot care is seen as a collection of products that shoppers expect to find together. The initiative also reinforced the importance of brands in the decision process and identified how sizing and gender affects interest and sales.

Scholl’s created actionable solutions rooted in the insights and analysis to deliver optimal assortment recommendations to its customers to drive category sales and profits. Based on Scholl’s recommendations, the category experienced growth in key segments. Insoles and devices, for example, grew 14.1% over a 12-week period ending Sept. 5. 

The company also rolled out innovations based on consumer insights, including Wart Remover Freeze Away Max and new Float-on-Air insoles. Aware that people were going to spas less often during the pandemic, the company further drove category and retailer sales with a new foot care and grooming collection that included Ultra Hydrating & Exfoliating Foot Lotion, cracked-heel balm products, and a hydrating and exfoliating foot mask product. 

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Shenandoah Growers

This category captain isn’t content just to bloom where it’s planted. Shenandoah Growers invested in primary consumer research to build a category management tool and retail playbook that enabled its retail partners to improve their assortments of fresh herbs and meet shopper interest in organic varieties.

The company identified the “Basil Coefficient” linking a store’s herb sales and its basil penetration. In short, stores that sell the most herbs recognize that basil doesn’t cannibalize other herbs, but actually helps put more herbs on the customer’s map. 

In addition, Shenandoah Growers developed quantitative consumer segmentation and corresponding shopper profiles to improve targeting, segmentation and messaging. By investing in consumer panels and surveys, the company was able to identify and segment consumer need states for better resource allocation, promotional programming and targeted messages. Merchandising solutions also helped reach shoppers with products and messaging. Among other displays, Shenandoah offered half-pallet living displays and a basil destination rack. 

These efforts allowed Shenandoah Growers — which provides offerings in all four fresh herb subcategories — to continue to lead the category, including in the highly valuable organic fresh-cut herb segment. The company and its private label programs have outpaced growth of the fresh-cut and living categories.     

Meanwhile, as shopper interest in sustainability continues, Shenandoah Growers has focused on eco-friendly practices, including growing herbs in soil-based indoor bio farms that are 100% USDA Organic and that produce organic basil year-round.

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Taylor Farms

During a period in which consumers’ routines shifted, the family-owned and founder-led Taylor Farms leveraged its social media following and influencer partnerships to showcase healthy- eating solutions that fit pandemic-era routines.

The producer of value-added salads, vegetables and deli foods — which grew its revenue 20.6% from June 2020 to June 2021 — focused on solutions like the Everything Ranch Kit, the brand’s top-growing salad. As part of its efforts to emphasize fresh staples, the company  deployed weekly meal guides featuring its chopped- salad kits and executed a Taylor-To-Your-Tastes campaign that netted 106 million impressions and increased brand awareness by 5% in targeted media markets.

One retail partner that works with Taylor Farms to supply 65% of its value-added salads reported that its category sales grew 30% versus the remaining market’s gains of 10%. That retailer chose Taylor Farms to receive its 2020 supplier award for service and partnership. Another major retail partner reported that Taylor Farms was an integral part of its 20% bump in the value-added cut-vegetable category. 

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