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Collective Excellence.

Byline: Jenny McTaggart

Progressive Grocer's 2011 Category Captains and Advisors are putting their best ideas forward for the good of the industry.

Behind every successful grocer is an abundance of strong brands and products -- and the suppliers that support their success at retail. No one should discount the hard work and ingenuity taking place among the country's leading retailers, ranging from the great chains that span the coastlines and in between (think Kroger and Walmart) to the regional players that are the envy of any student of the retail trade (think H-E-B and Publix). Yet the essence of the business requires collective thinking from all parties involved to best serve consumers, stay relevant and continue to grow.

Now in their 15th year, Progressive Grocer's annual Category Captains awards honor the most innovative suppliers in the game, doing what they do best in the world of category management. There are a whopping 89 winners this year -- 71 Category Captains and 18 Category Advisors -- assembled from the best and brightest major CPG companies to smaller gourmet suppliers, including one that's also a specialty retailer, and an ever-growing number of fresh food suppliers, among others.

Since the contest's judging process is confidential in nature, you won't see many grocers' names mentioned directly in the stories describing this year's winners. However, after carefully sifting through the numerous entries that were submitted for our 2011 awards competition, our editorial and advisory teams had the honor of learning far more about what's going on behind the scenes, which enabled us to make the final selection of the winning platforms showcased herein -- some of which took wing with an idea that began after fresh consumer research unveiled a missed opportunity; a cutting-edge tool established to facilitate a new shelf management scheme, not only on a national basis, but also to customize on a regional scale; or by maximizing loyalty card data to get promotions just right.

The supplier community has some surprises in store to help grocers grow sales and profits during these tough economic times.

Assembled side by side on the following pages, the stories of PG's 2011 Category Captains and Advisors paint a picture of manufacturers and retailers working hand in hand for the greater good of specific categories and, ultimately, for the industry.

Talking Trends

There are two big trends driving category management in the industry today, observes Jim Hertel, managing partner at Barrington, 111.-based consultancy Willard Bishop. "The first trend is incorporating shopper insights, driven by the increasing availability of loyalty card data. And No. 2 is the application of category management principles to broader 'geography' within the store: aisles, departments and the entire center store," he says.

You'll see evidence of these trends in several of our winners' profiles. Perhaps the biggest proponent of taking the store's larger geography into account is General Mills. While the company still measures yogurt and refrigerated baked goods as separate dairy categories, for instance, there's work being done to incorporate insights into the dairy aisle as a whole. The same principle applies to frozen foods, the cereal aisle and other departments where General Mills claims a piece of the pie.

METHODOLOGY

Progressive Grocer's annual Category Captains competition aims to shed light on the outstanding category management initiatives implemented in the retail grocery market over roughly the past 12 months. The list of winners reflects some of the best strategic thinking and execution in the category management field, as revealed in the winning companies' summaries that follow below.

Our Category Captains awards program is predicated on the accuracy and completeness of each entry submitted for consideration, all of which are weighed on an equal footing. As such, the best entries not only deliver a selection of facts relating to a manufacturer's or a brand's most recent category management achievements over the past 12 months, they also tell a compelling story of challenges confronted, strategies developed and implemented, and the collective results of trading partners working together toward a common goal.

In essence, the actual entry submitted is the key to the judging process in this competition. In winning entries, a company's importance and influence in a given category are represented as comprehensively as possible. This keeps the awards process dynamic from year to year, as well as leaving open the possibility that up-and-comers can be recognized alongside well-established players.

Each of the following award criteria figured into the judging of the entries to qualify them for the award of Category Captain, Category Advisor or neither. Entries were asked to describe details and compelling results of new category management initiatives over the past 12 months.

The factors that figured into judging were:

* Product innovation

* Creativity in merchandising, marketing, promotion and advertising

* Consumer insights

* Innovative, dynamic category management tools

* Demonstrated commitment to meeting retail customers' specific needs

* Effectiveness at differentiating a line or brand within the category

* Effectiveness at lifting sales for a brand's products in the category

* Effectiveness at lifting an entire category's sales for a retailer or retailers

* Fact-based evidence of market-specific or account-specific sales results that support the vendor's claims of excellence

To win the premier Category Captain award, contestants were required to demonstrate excellence in all of the above criteria in their entries. Category Advisors also exhibited excellence, but ranked lower overall than the threshold set for Category Captaincy. Both designations reflect outstanding contributions to the industry at the category level.

PG extends congratulations to all of our award-winning Category Captains and Advisors.

The J.M. Smucker Co., which owns the ever-popular Folgers brand, is now looking at the "warm beverage aisle" in its category management platform, so hot tea and cocoa, creamers and filters, and other related products are now taken into account.

Numerous recipients of PG's Category Captains are making the most of their retailer partners' loyalty card data. Coca-Cola, Flowers Foods, Bayer HealthCare and Abbott Nutrition are just a few examples of suppliers that use shopper card data to create promotions, design more effective ads and consult their retailer partners on forecasting, as well as other initiatives.

As is the case every year with Category Captains, more than one contestant mentioned plans for the year ahead as they laid out the case for why they excelled in 2010 and the first half of 2011. Meanwhile, some suppliers have launched new products, shelving plans and other programs that are still too early in their development to garner solid results. But judging from this year's entries, it looks like the supplier community definitely has some surprises in store going forward to help grocers grow sales and profits during these tough economic times.

Willard Bishop's Hertel shares his advice for manufacturers that want to stay a step ahead in category management: "They need to be thinking about how to help retailers win with shoppers ... how to build trip-to-trip loyalty, greater aisle penetration and category conversion.

Real forward-thinkers will be looking to help retailers capitalize on their fresh department strengths to help drive center store traffic."

WINNERS LIST INDEX

GROCERY-FOOD & BEVERAGES

ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES-BEER

Category Captain: Anheuser-Busch

ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES-WINE

Category Captain: E. & J. Gallo Winery

BABY FOOD AND CONSUMABLES

Category Captain: Abbott Nutrition

Category Advisor: Nestl' Nutrition

BREAKFAST FOODS-CEREAL, INCLUDING CONVENIENT WHOLESOME FOODS (CWF)

Category Captain: General Mills

BREAKFAST FOODS-READY-TO-EAT CEREAL

Category Captain: The Kellogg Co.

BREAKFAST FOODS-HOT CEREAL

Category Advisor: Sturm Foods (McCann's)

CANDY

Category Co-captain: The Hershey Co.

Category Co-captain: Mars Chocolate North America

CANNED AND PACKAGED BEVERAGES-COFFEE

Category Captain: Kraft Foods

CANNED AND PACKAGED BEVERAGES-JUICE DRINKS

Category Captain: Campbell Soup Co.

CANNED AND PACKAGED BEVERAGES-SOFT DRINKS

Category Captain: Coca-Cola

CANNED AND PACKAGED BEVERAGES-WARM BEVERAGES

Category Captain: The J.M. Smucker Co.

CANNED AND PACKAGED FOODS-BAKING INGREDIENTS, SPICES AND SEASONINGS

Category Captain: General Mills

CANNED AND PACKAGED FOODS-DESSERTS

Category Captain: General Mills

Category Advisor: The J.M. Smucker Co.

CANNED AND PACKAGED FOODS-DRY PACKAGED DINNERS

Category Captain: General Mills

CANNED AND PACKAGED FOODS-DRY PACKAGED POTATOES

Category Captain: General Mills

CANNED AND PACKAGED FOODS-FRUIT SPREADS AND PEANUT BUTTER

Category Advisor: The J.M. Smucker Co.

CANNED AND PACKAGED FOODS-NUT SPREADS

Category Advisor: Ferrero USA

CANNED AND PACKAGED FOODS-SHELF-STABLE MEALS

Category Captain: ConAgra Foods

CANNED AND PACKAGED FOODS-SHELF-STABLE VEGETABLES

Category Captain: General Mills

Category Advisor: Mario Camacho Foods (Olives)

CANNED AND PACKAGED FOODS-SOUPS

Category Co-captain: Campbell Soup Co.

Category Co-captain: General Mills

COMMERCIAL BAKED GOODS

Category Captain: Sara Lee

Category Advisor: Flowers Foods

COOKIES

Category Captain: Kraft Foods

CRACKERS

Category Captain: The Kellogg Co.

ETHNIC FOODS

Category Captain: General Mills

GUM

Category Captain: Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co.

MIXED SALTY SAVORY SNACKS

Category Captain: General Mills

NATURAL AND ORGANIC FOODS

Category Captain: General Mills

Category Advisor: Kashi

PREMIUM SNACK FOODS

Category Captain: Campbell Soup Co.

SALTY SNACKS

Category Captain: Flormel Foods

WHOLESOME PORTABLE BREAKFAST AND SNACKS

Category Captain: The Kellogg Co.

FROZEN FOODS

FROZEN BAKED GOODS

Category Captain: General Mills

FROZEN BREAKFAST

Category Captain: General Mills

Category Advisor: The Kellogg Co.

FROZEN ENTREES

Category Captain: General Mills

FROZEN FRUIT/SMOOTHIES

Category Captain: General Mills

FROZEN HOT SNACKS

Category Captain: General Mills

FROZEN MEALS

Category Captain: Unilever

FROZEN PIZZA

Category Captain: General Mills

FROZEN VEGETABLES

Category Captain: General Mills

FROZEN VEGGIE FOODS

Category Captain: The Kellogg Co.

ICE CREAM & NOVELTIES

Category Captain: Unilever

GROCERY-NONFOODS

PET CARE

Category Captain: Nestl' Purina Petcare

Category Advisor: Fresh Pet

SOAPS AND DETERGENT

Category Captain: Flenkel NA

HEALTH, BEAUTY & WELLNESS

ANALGESICS

Category Captain: Bayer FlealthCare

DIGESTIVE HEALTH

Category Captain: Novartis Consumer Health

HAIR CARE

Category Captain: Unilever

ORAL ELECTROLYTES

Category Captain: Abbott Nutrition

SPORTS NUTRITIONALS

Category Captain: Abbott Nutrition

SUN CARE

Category Captain: Merck Consumer Care

VITAMINS

Category Captain: Pharmavite

VITAMINS AND SUPPLEMENTS

Category Co-captain: Bayer HealthCare

Category Co-captain: US Nutrition

PERIMETER-BAKERY

Category Captain: Dawn Foods

PERIMETER-DAIRY

COOKING CRAME

Category Captain: Kraft Foods

MARGARINE

Category Captain: Unilever

REFRIGERATED BAKED GOODS

Category Captain: General Mills

SPECIALTY CHEESE

Category Captain: Murray's Cheese

Category Advisor: Beemster Cheese

YOGURT AND SMOOTHIES

Category Captain: General Mills

PERIMETER-DELI

PREPARED FOODS

Category Captain: Tyson Foods

PERIMETER-VARIABLE/ FIXED-WEIGHT MEAT

FRESH PORK PRODUCTS

Category Captain: Hormel Foods

DELI MEAT

Category Captain: Dietz & Watson

Category Advisor: Kraft Foods

VARIABLE/FIXEDWEIGHT PRODUCE

AVOCADOS

Category Captain: Chiquita

BANANAS

Category Captain: Del Monte Fresh

Category Advisor: Chiquita

BERRIES

Category Captain: Driscoll Strawberry Associates

CITRUS

Category Captain: Cuties Cooperative

FRESH-CUT FRUIT

Category Captain: Del Monte Fresh

PACKAGED SALADS

Category Captain: Dole

Category Advisor: Chiquita (Fresh Express)

PINEAPPLE

Category Captain: Del Monte Fresh

POTATOES

Category Captain: United States Potato Board

Category Advisor: Idaho Potato Commission

TOMATOES

Category Captain: NatureSweet

Category Advisor: Mastronardi Produce

VALUE-ADDED VEGETABLES

Category Captain: Mann Packing Co.

Category Advisor: Apio

OTHER PERIMETER

FRONT END

Category Captain: Coinstar

FRONT END-GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Category Advisor: Pfizer

NONFOODS

BOOKS AND MAGAZINES

Category Captain: Rodale

Talking with ... Herb Smith

National Director of Sales, E. & J. Gallo Winery

CATEGORY CAPTAIN WINNER

Like a fine wine, E. & J. Gallo Winery continues to evolve and become better with time. Indeed, the 75-year-old, family-run winery based in Modesto, Calif, has continued to expand its considerable portfolio, recently introducing new Red Blends, Malbec and Moscato wines and new spirits like New Amsterdam Gin, New Amsterdam Vodka and Familia Camarena Tequila. From a business perspective, E. & J. Gallo has grown, too, with its recent acquisition of Edna Valley, a popular coastal California winery.

Progressive Grocer: In your opinion, what elements of your product quality and merchandising programs helped E. & J. Gallo become a Category Captain winner?

Herb Smith: We are honored to be recognized by Progressive Grocer as a Category Captain leader. We are very proud of the collaborative relationships we have with our retail partners. We work very closely with our retail partners to provide insights into the wine business, what the wine consumer is looking for and what the emerging new trends are. We provide recommendations for retailers to consider in terms of shelf arrangement and assortment to continue to help drive penetration and conversion of the wine category. We are also very proud of our marketing and trade promotions. These programs generally are tied into food-related products and are always designed to enhance the shopping experience for the consumer, build the basket for the retailer, and most importantly, take the consumer's meal or event to a whole new level.

PG: How has your category changed in recent years, and how have you adjusted to those changes?

HS: We continue to see the wine category grow and we feel it could double in size in the next ten years. Many of our retail partners have made wine a strategic category and positioned the category in key areas throughout their stores. Over the past decade, we have seen a lot of changes, primarily in taste profiles. The traditional wine varietals like Cabernet/Chardonnay/Merlot are still strong, but we have seen Pinot Grigio, Reisling, Pinot Noir, and most recently Red Blends, Moscato, and Malbec really take off. Wine is continuing to become more of a day-to-day part of life for consumer, and it provides them a chance to take a break from the rigors of the day as well as to enhance an everyday meal with a good friend or loved one. To keep up with ever-changing consumer preferences, we continue to create and build brands that appeal to wine consumer interests and taste profiles.

PG: How have you worked with grocers to ensure the success of their wine section and your own products?

HS: We have collaborated with our retail partners to provide recommendations based on consumer insights to help them ensure the proper assortment is provided to the consumer. We also work with them and provide recommendations related to advertising, promotional programs, and the number and type of wine items their consumers expect their stores to carry. We work hard to help our retail partners define what they want the wine category to be and to build solid department strategies to get them there. At the end of the day, it is important to provide an unbiased view of the category and provide fact-based insights to help our retail partners drive a profitable efficient department that meets all of their goals. We continue to see a tremendous opportunity to grow conversion and penetration with the category to enhance the consumers' in-store experience.
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Author:McTaggart, Jenny
Publication:Progressive Grocer
Date:Nov 1, 2011
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