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Selling Solutions.

Byline: Jim Dudlicek

20[sup.th] annual awards recognize partners looking beyond brand, aisle and category.

George Carlin may have said it best.

"Everybody's gotta have a little place for their stuff," the late comedian famously declared. "That's all life is about. Trying to find a place for your stuff."

And make no mistake, grocery stores are full of stuff -- stuff that retailers and their CPG partners want to sell. But it's not enough anymore to just sell stuff.

People can buy stuff anywhere, in a growing number of virtual and brick-and-mortar channels. Retailers need to continue to evolve their strategic partnerships with CPG manufacturers to justify why this particular store is the best place to buy that particular stuff.

And stuff rarely stands alone anymore -- it's all interconnected with other stuff. Consumers need this stuff, that stuff and the other stuff all in one place, merchandised in a manner that effectively presents shoppers with the solutions they seek.

Effective long-term partnerships need to evolve to a higher degree of collaboration and information sharing than that with which either retailer or supplier has historically been comfortable. But partnerships that have grown closer and more open through the sharing of shopper insights -- which technology allows to be gathered more deeply and effectively than ever before -- have proved to be the most effective in driving sales, not just of a particular brand or product, but also of the entire basket. That means banner loyalty, repeat sales and long-term success.

Now in their 20[sup.th] year, Progressive Grocer's Category Captains awards honor CPG companies for category management aptitude, best demonstrated by collaborations with their grocery retailer partners.

This year, there were 62 winners among those selected as Category Captains, our top honor, and Category Advisors, our honorable-mention designation.

Leading the Pack

Retailers and suppliers are working together to maximize the profitability of every department in the store. These partnerships are generating solutions tailored for specific consumer need states that address unique demands at local and regional levels.

Some examples of effective initiatives that stood out in the minds of our editors this year:

* * Spirits supplier Beam Suntory worked with its partner retailers to develop shelving principles that deliver incremental growth while allowing customization for specific regions and store clusters.

* * Mars Chocolate North America's Wrigley division leveraged research to identify key need states at the front end that cross several store categories.

* * Coca-Cola launched a strategic merchandising incentive to grow sales of beverages and complementary categories, with displays in nontraditional areas of the store.

* * Seventh Generation is driving category trial and growth through "twinning," the pairing of conventional and green/natural products in targeted end cap displays.

* * Dean Foods is doing it all that it can to rouse a sleepy fluid milk category by answering demand for clean-label products and additional marketing investment to reignite excitement.

* * Hormel Foods' Deli by Design program leverages research to pinpoint key culinary trends and work with retailers on globally inspired products.

* * Tyson Foods' Velocity Process uses data to uncover growth opportunities within a retailer's prepared food department and expose service lapses that impact retailer loyalty.

* * The Idaho Potato Commission demonstrates the strength of the Idaho brand in driving sales not only in produce, but also the whole store.

Insights plus collaboration will equal success for the long haul. Delivering solutions beyond traditional store boundaries is going to demonstrate relevant innovation to shoppers looking for convenience, quality and value.

Grocery -- Food & Beverages

Alcoholic Beverages -- Beer

Category Advisor

Anheuser-Busch

In summer, the beer category brings in $1.4 billion in incremental opportunities, according to Anheuser-Busch, the king of beer makers. To take advantage of this seasonal popularity, Anheuser-Busch Inbev (ABI) pioneered a new feature strategy.

Through a series of consumer tests, as well as pilot programs, ABI identified the optimal pack size and discount structures to drive greater lift. One variation of this feature approach was ABI's Buy Two 12-packs and Get One Free promotion for Bud Light, Budweiser and Michelob Ultra. The promotion was also executed against "above premium" brands, including Goose Island IPA, Stella Artois and Shock Top, with a focus on 6-packs.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, approximately 20 states participated in the promotion, which drove significant category gains, according to ABI. Bud Light, Budweiser and Michelob Ultra 12-packs increased 112 percent in dollar sales compared with the previous selling period. The promotional strategy also benefited the category in total, with dollar trends in participating states exceeding control states by 1.9 percent.

Alcoholic Beverages -- Wine

Category Captain

E&J Gallo Winery

As E&J Gallo Winery sees it, simply merchandising a store with product is no longer enough to meet consumers' needs. To stay relevant, retailers and suppliers need to develop a deeper understanding of shoppers, their occasions and influencers.

In 2015, Gallo partnered with several key retailers to better understand the shopper psyche. The company's internal tool segments wine consumers into wine shopper profiles based on a combination of their underlying emotional needs, attitudinal interaction with the category, and total path to purchase. Gallo advanced this research to meet the specific needs of each of its retailer partners. The company was able to overlay retailers' internal shopper segmentations with its shopper profiles to identify areas of opportunity.

With one of its retailer partners, Gallo helped better serve shoppers who like premium wines. The retailer tested a new shelf set and directional signage in 300 of its stores. Premium wine was moved into its own type by flavor set. The test stores saw a premium shift, with premium-plus sales showing trends three points higher than the control stores. Additionally, average ring increased 19 cents versus the control stores in just 14 weeks.

Alcoholic Beverages -- Spirits

Category Captain

Beam Suntory

The spirits category has enjoyed a 7.4 percent four-year compound annual growth rate, yet suppliers have been slow to deliver shopper-centric insights. Beam Suntory worked to change that by aligning itself with Kantar Retail, Chase Design, Nielsen and Consumer Dynamics.

The partnership resulted in a deep-dive, full-aisle research initiative that unlocked some winning growth solutions for the category. The 23-week project, begun in October 2015, included a shelving analysis with regression analytic modeling. It led to six grocery-shelving principles that deliver incremental category growth, while also allowing local customization for grocers' specific regions and store-specific clusters, according to Beam Suntory.

The company is currently testing its shelf principles with four retailers, and several other companies are in line to reset their spirits sections. So far, the initiative has resulted in an average of 16.6 percent category growth in test stores.

Baking Ingredients -- Mixes

Category Captain

J.M. Smucker Co.

The dessert baking mix category has been declining in dollar and unit volume over the past three years due to smaller households, Millennial behavior and better-for-you eating trends. Armed with these insights, Smucker's launched Pillsbury Purely Simple, offering a clean-label proposition (no colors, preservatives or artificial flavors) and a variety of product types (cake, brownies, cookies and frostings) to meet different trending consumer needs, including snacking, personalization and experience.

The line made significant gains in 2015 and 2016, boosting Millennial penetration in four key baking mix subsegments. Smucker's continues to partner with retailers to capitalize on key consumer trends critical to future growth.

Baking Ingredients -- Mixes

Category Advisor

Pinnacle Foods

The $3.5 billion baking mix category is experiencing declining penetration and frequency. Among the reasons: Traditional bakers are becoming empty nesters and no longer bake with the same frequency. In response, Pinnacle rolled out Duncan Hines Perfect Size Next Generation, a line of complete turnkey baking solutions, complete with disposable pan and icing, allowing for smaller portions for smaller households.

Using analytics and qualitative consumer research, Pinnacle formed a hands-on, entrepreneurial team to more deeply understand the consumer need and develop the product concept. Pinnacle reported tremendous positive feedback and results from its retail partners and consumers on bringing innovation into this historically price-driven category.

Baking Ingredients -- Nuts

Category Captain

John B. Sanfilippo & Son Inc.

Since peaking in 2014, recipe nuts have been declining. Starting last year, Sanfilippo's Fisher brand implemented product innovations and a fully integrated 360-degree marketing campaign.

Insights-driven innovation led to Non-GMO Project verification for Fisher's entire product line, health claims and an enhanced on-pack brand story. Display-ready cases reduced stocking time and corrugate waste, and provided a cleaner look on shelf. New 32-ounce stand-up bags met heavy users' needs and retailers' goal of maintaining revenue during commodity deflation. Fisher amplified the brand's cachet through value-added recipe content plus strategic partnerships on social media, the Food Network and with complementary products.

Retailers embraced the efforts, which led to new distribution with three major chains.

Baking Ingredients -- Oils

Category Captain

J.M. Smucker Co.

Aiming to jump-start this stagnant category, Smucker's conducted landscape research revealing growth in better-for-you (specialty, coconut, olive oils) offset by declines in traditional segments (base oils and shortenings), plus a demand for simple, real and recognizable ingredients with minimal processing.

Additionally, coconut oil is attracting new households, especially those headed by Millennials. Smucker's leveraged internal shopper card data to identify Millennials with premium spending habits as key targets. Data also suggested that shoppers usually have a preference between refined and unrefined coconut oil, with little cross-purchasing between the two. The company worked with retailers to adjust shelf space to boost household penetration and sales, and shore up a waning category.

Candy & Gum

Category Captain

Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co./Mars Chocolate North America

Knowing incremental purchases in transaction zones like the front end are critical to retailers, Wrigley and Mars conducted extensive global research to learn more about shopper behavior and experience to develop customized recommendations and maximize cross-category sales at checkout. One retail partner noted that Wrigley's "ability to bridge all these categories together is somewhat unique. They are not looking myopically at their business, but at what is best for our company."

Research indicated choices must easily satisfy three key need states: refresh (gum/mints), reward (chocolate/confections) and remind (batteries, lip balm, etc.). Results have been impressive: One national grocery retailer following Wrigley's recommendations experienced a double-digit dollar sales lift, with strong growth in unit sales, household penetration and basket size.

Canned & Packaged Beverages -- Coffee

Category Captain

Massimo Zanetti

Massimo Zanetti Beverage (MZB) showed grocery retailers how to maximize coffee sales by expanding the coffee section and stocking a category-disrupting innovation: certified compostable single-serve coffee brew pods.

One major Northeast retailer moved the entire category so that the coffee category space could grow by the additional 20 percent needed to accommodate MZB's assortment and merchandising recommendations.

MZB also applied consumer insights to the single-serve coffee segment, which is driven by consumer concerns about the environment. This led the company to launch a 100 percent compostable package to retain and grow the single-serve shopper base.

At an MZB retailer partner carrying the compostable pods, the single-serve segment represented 50.6 percent of total ground coffee sales. The coffee segment was up 15 percent versus 2015, even as the category has leveled off, showing that while overall sales in the category have slowed, compostable innovation is driving growth in the single-serve format.

Canned & Packaged Foods -- Juice

Category Advisor

J.M. Smucker Co.

Leveraging strong growth in the natural beverage segment (versus flat movement elsewhere), Smucker's is helping retailers embrace natural as part of their strategy. Smucker's demonstrated to one retail partner that most of its stores would be drastically under-spaced within the next two years. Leveraging store-level planogram and sales information, the company showed how devoting 4 feet to natural juice would ensure that the retailer would be able to meet the growing demand.

Smuckers' approach, including shopper insights, optimal space allocation and product innovation, has led to many wins for its retail partners' overall beverage strategy.

Canned & Packaged Beverages -- Coffee

Category Advisor

J.M. Smucker Co.

With away-from-home coffee experiences eroding home consumption, Smucker's launched Dunkin' Donuts K-Cups to bring a well-known coffee shop brand directly to retailers and consumers as part of a total category strategy that has expanded the total $9.5 billion coffee category and driven incremental aisle trips.

At one Northeast retailer, acceptance of the new items reversed slowing K-cup segment growth and contributed to total category growth. Smucker's category leadership team performed a key-account audit and made assortment recommendations to accommodate high velocities of new items while accounting for total category synergies. The result: Segment and total category growth rose significantly over the prior year. Managing assortment and merchandising for retailer partners continues to be a top priority for Smucker's.

Canned & Packaged Beverages -- Soft Drinks

Category Captain

The Coca-Cola Co.

In the past year, Coca-Cola launched a strategic merchandising incentive for its large-store customers that helped grow sales of not just beverages, but also of multiple adjacent categories. The cross-category bundle offer was designed to leverage consumer insights to make shopping easier and drive sales. It allowed retailers to bundle together multiple categories of Coca-Cola beverages with products that complement the beverages in self-standing merchandising solutions. The displays were placed in various areas of the store where Coca-Cola products and the complementary items wouldn't otherwise be available.

As a result, the initiative built basket size and drove incidence and incremental sales, along with profit growth, for both Coca-Cola and its retailer partners. Coca-Cola tested multiple meal-based bundles in 2015 and 2016, all of which garnered strong results, according to the manufacturer.

Canned & Packaged Beverages -- Soft Drinks

Category Captain

Dr Pepper Snapple Group

A leading national grocer turned to Dr Pepper Snapple Group (DPSG) to help drive shopper engagement in the struggling carbonated soft drink category. Through their category management partnership, the companies aimed to increase basket rings, drive trips and grow loyal household engagement.

Together, they developed a one-of-a-kind tailgating experience that featured recipes, an ESPN homepage takeover on the internet, and in-store displays. The program delivered $11.9 million in category growth, driving 2.7 points of market share and a 2.8 percent increase in loyal households. DPSG accounted for 33 percent of the dollar growth, with only 9 percent of the category sales. Total category dollar sales grew 4.9 percent. Based on the success of the program, the retailer has signed on with DPSG once again to roll out a similar initiative this football season.

Canned & Packaged Foods -- Grains

Category Captain

J.M. Smucker Co.

While nearly two-thirds of U.S. consumers are interested in ancient grains, only about 3 percent are buying them. Smucker's is working to close that gap by marketing products that fit the needs of diverse consumers, leveraging education and shopper insights, and focusing on sprouted grains, growth of which has exploded in recent years.

Smucker's partnered with a leading national retailer to create a 4-foot segregated set for natural and organic grains, beans and rice, including one shelf dedicated to sprouted items, featuring an information panel about the perceived benefits of sprouting. Sales skyrocketed, delivering excellent shelf efficiency. The retailer plans to continue this momentum by engaging consumers through shopper marketing programs.

Canned & Packaged Foods-Dry Packaged Potatoes

Category Captain

Idahoan

To drive growth in the flavored mashed potato segment, Idahoan teamed with retailers to develop shippers and other displays to bring the category from center store into the perimeter. These displays paired potatoes with such items as rotisserie chickens, hams and turkeys. Retailers that actively merchandised the category via out-of-department displays experienced growth rates much stronger than the category norm.

The company worked with a major Midwestern retailer on optimizing assortment and merchandising by segment first, then brand. The retailer also switched from a horizontal brand/segment block to vertical blocks making it easier for shoppers to locate and purchase multiple flavors, thereby increasing overall basket size. The category at the retailer had been down 7.8 percent, but is now growing at 5 percent.

Additionally, to improve perceptions of the category, Idahoan made a large investment in digital advertising highlighting the authenticity, flavor variety and usage ideas of its packaged potatoes.

Canned & Packaged Foods -- Seafood

Category Advisor

Bumble Bee

In late 2014, Bumble Bee Seafoods leveraged a cross-functional team to identify ways to grow the canned tuna category and bring more shoppers back to the center store. Through research, the company found that consumers lacked knowledge about the difference between albacore tuna and light tuna.

To reverse that trend, the company developed an albacore tuna media campaign that included television and digital marketing. The program delivered on several growing food trends, including healthy eating, food knowledge and clean ingredients. After the initial rollout, overall category awareness was up 6 percent, while household penetration increased 1.2 percent.

Canned & Packaged Foods -- Spreads

Category Advisor

J.M. Smucker Co.

Smucker's has driven its Jif Natural brand into the better-for-you need state across shopper trips in the peanut butter category. Its category leadership and shopper insights teams employed market research to ensure optimal placement for natural items within the core categories.

Jif continued to push innovation in the category to meet evolving consumer needs, supporting the launch and expansion of new products with strong marketing and in-store support, ensuring interaction with consumers at each point in the path to purchase. Smucker's demonstrated that capitalizing on evolving consumer needs such as better-for-you protein can drive category expansion and sales growth.

Commercial Baked Goods -- Sweet Goods

Category Captain

McKee Foods

After successful promotional events with a Texas retailer revealed that Little Debbie Zebra Cakes had strong name recognition with Hispanic consumers, McKee Foods saw an opportunity to create a sub-brand of products to drive incremental sales and new customers to the category.

Category insights and the opportunity to drive the all-important Hispanic shopper to the category and build incremental sales were eventually presented to other retailers outside of the south Texas markets. Retailers nationally saw the opportunity and seized on it. In addition to the products' appeal to Hispanics, insights showed that the items appealed across many demographic lines. Because of the appeal and incremental opportunity, the products also secured space at a major big-box retailer.

As a result, the three new products have sold $19.4 million in a category that grew $16.2 million. At the big-box retailer, where the category grew $14.9 million, these products drove $5.9 million in sales.

Commercial Baked Goods -- Bread

Category Captain

Flowers Foods

Flowers Foods leveraged a key consumer trend to grow packaged bread sales for its retail partners. Recognizing consumer preferences for simpler, healthier eating, the company provided a merchandising strategy and planogram automation to incorporate fresh organic breads into commercial bread shelf sets. It identified stores with high organic sales potential and created healthy/organic sets to showcase new offerings, encourage trial and position retailers as destinations for healthy bread options.

Organic breads are leading the category, up 25.5 percent versus the prior year, according to Flowers, maker of the premium brand Dave's Killer Bread. The company's category management toolbox included insights from IRI scan and panel data, loyalty card data, and trip mission studies, along with the latest planogram technology.

Ethnic Foods

Category Captain

Hormel Foods

Hormel Foods and MegaMex Foods, a joint venture of Hormel and Herdez Del Fuerte that offers a variety of Mexican foods in the United States, conducted a Mexican aisle optimization study that enabled retailers to grow their Mexican aisles, outpacing all other center store growth.

The research uncovered three recommendations: assortment optimization to maximize impact for the total aisle; adjacency optimization by organizing the category flow and adjacencies across Mexican foods, and adjusting space allocation to reflect category performance; and aisle optimization to create a distinct destination for Mexican foods -- separate from international foods.

Retailers that implemented these strategies saw double-digit increases, surpassing growth in the rest of center store. For example, one Northeast retailer achieved 12 percent Mexican aisle growth, which is five points above total store growth, while another retailer achieved total MegaMex Foods growth of 13 percent and total Mexican aisle growth of 13.5 percent.

Ready-to-eat Cereal

Category Captain

Kellogg Co.

Kellogg Co. leveraged trends toward health and fun through two successful new ready-to-eat cereal offerings: Special K Nourish cereal and indulgent Smorz, a relaunch of a cereal popular in the early 2000s.

The company also created more shoppable aisles through increased focus on segmented sets. Overall, retailers with segmented sets saw a 2 percent increase in base sales in the category over nonsegmented sets. This helped shape Kellogg's cereal category strategy, along with shopper insights tests.

For example, at a major retail account, 60 percent of shoppers entering the store saw the cereal aisle, but only 13 percent spotted products in the aisle. Although 77 percent of those shoppers converted into cereal buyers, improving the percentage of shoppers who spotted products in aisle would drive higher conversion and increased category sales. As a result of these findings, the account is making improvements to drive more visual brand cues in aisle.

Snacks

Category Captain

Hormel Foods

Hormel Foods' in-store research indicated that findability of its Skippy P.B. Bites and similar snacks is easier when they're grouped together as a snacking subset within the peanut butter aisle.

One retailer that implemented the subset found that Skippy P.B. Bites sales are incremental to total nut butters, with 3 percent of sales coming from new category buyers who hadn't purchased the category in the prior year. Further, Skippy P.B. Bites are 53 percent incremental to the subset items, with 40 percent of sales coming from new households.

A big-box retailer's subsets increased its total peanut butter category by more than 4 percent over the prior year in the six weeks following rollout.

Hormel also worked with retailers to improve the arrangement of other items in the category, moving larger sizes of peanut butter from the bottom shelf to the middle of the set, which increased category dollars and consumption.

Ready-to-eat Cereal

Category Advisor

General Mills

General Mills continued to bring a level of differentiation and thought leadership to the ready-to-eat cereal category. With mainstream brands like Cheerios, as well as the natural/organic Cascadian Farms line, General Mills has invested heavily in health messaging in recent years.

In just one example, Gluten Free Cheerios has led to a differentiated consumer usage across the business, driving dollar trends up 6 percent. In the past year, General Mills has gathered new in-aisle shopper-based consumer decision insights, which helped determine the need for better size variety. The company also developed new display insights that focus on improving cereal category display performance. Its "Play for Display" center store research demonstrated that cereal is one of the most underdeveloped dry grocery categories and could help retailers capture more total-store incremental dollars. Meanwhile, General Mills turned to analytical tools to help retailers optimize their shelf space. Retailers that employed the supplier's principles have realized 1 percent to 4 percent increases in category dollar sales, according to the company.

Snacks -- Meat Snacks

Category Captain

Jack Link's

Leveraging its understanding of snacking trends and the meat snack category, Jack Link's helped a large Upper Midwest retailer grow the category, specifically bagged jerky.

Working with the company, the retailer increased the in-line set in a high-volume store from 4 feet to 8 feet, and grew secondary display through pallet programs and expanding jerky into the checkout. Additionally, Jack Link's developed online, mobile and in-store solutions to drive excitement around the meat snack category.

Following these changes, this retailer's meat snack category was up 18 percent over the last 52 weeks and 27 percent over the last 26 weeks, growing faster than both its remaining market and total U.S. food. Additionally, the jerky segment grew nearly twice as fast as the category over the last 26 weeks, 19 points faster than the remaining market, and 34 points faster than total U.S. food in both dollar sales and unit movement.

Snacks -- Grain Bars

Category Advisor

General Mills

Convenient wholesome foods is a $4.9 billion category that's down slightly from the prior year. As the grain segment has declined, General Mills has stepped up to inject innovation and new shelving principles.

Earlier this year, the company introduced Nature Valley Biscuits with Nut Butter, as well as Larabar Bites. Meanwhile, its category managers advised retailers to try a "gold-standard total bars shelf layout," which incorporates natural/organic items and the kid segment. They also recommended space expansion for the grain snack segment. Retailers that have expanded their space to an optimal 12 to 16 feet have seen an increase in grain category sales rates upwards of 16 percent, according to the company.

Toaster Pastries

Category Captain

Kellogg Co.

Kellogg Co. launched and supported bigger and more incremental innovation using licensed partners and strategic limited-edition offerings. The innovation plan targeted core shoppers and was strengthened by a balance of broadly appealing and novelty flavors, including Maple Bacon and Watermelon.

Licensed partners expanded Kellogg's reach to secure valuable category displays. The platform recruited lapsed users and attracted new teen/young-adult households by addressing unmet needs/barriers to consumption through product innovation, which drove growth.

Test results indicated that because of the highly impulse-driven nature of the category, the first 4 feet of the aisle act as a secondary display for toaster pastries and improve off-shelf purchases. Category dollar sales increase significantly when on the first 4 feet of the aisle; further, the entire aisle increases in both sales and penetration. Toaster pastries on the end of the aisle appear to draw the shopper down the aisle, which benefits the aisle as a whole.

Frozen Foods / Nonfoods

Frozen Breakfast

Category Advisor

Kellogg Co.

Kellogg Co.'s strategy for frozen breakfast leadership focused on delivering category strategies that drive sustainable growth within the frozen department and frozen breakfast. The company focused on evolving its macro space story to deliver solutions that optimize and organize the department. Using retailer-specific data, Kellogg developed a category story identifying key consumer segments, breakfast occasion trends and food preferences within the category.

Balanced growth in frozen breakfast across carrier and handheld products is key for retailers to drive long-term sustainable growth. Retailers doing this grew 7.2 percent from last year, while those driving unbalanced growth grew only 1.1 percent from last year. Kellogg identified items that would drive incremental demand and deliver balanced growth.

Kellogg also provided category leadership across carriers and entr'es to deliver incremental growth through such innovations as Special K Crustless Quiche, Eggo Oats & Berries, and four licensed Eggo waffle items leveraging Disney and Marvel properties.

Frozen Vegetables

Category Advisor

Pinnacle Foods

Pinnacle Foods launched its Birds Eye Disney Sides to reinvigorate the brand and the $3 billion-plus frozen vegetable category by targeting the pickiest eaters through the combination of kid-friendly veggies, pasta and sauce with Disney character graphics and pasta shapes.

Additionally, with frozen veggies considered the "gateway to healthy eating," Pinnacle aimed to change the perception that the category is overly processed and lacks flavor. The company delivered solutions that resonated with key households, including Millennials and Boomers, to drive category growth and retailer margin. Pinnacle reported positive results for partners signing on to meet intersecting needs for a healthy lifestyle, meal prep shortcuts and a flavorful eating experience.

Frozen Meat Substitutes

Category Captain

Kellogg Co.

This year, Kellogg Co.'s MorningStar Farms (MSF), the meat substitute brand leader, led nationwide resets to implement new consumer-preferred packaging with resealable bags, appetizing food photography, and a display-ready case to create a more organized shelf set.

The company provided the strategic insights that natural/organic meals and meat substitutes are distinct from mainstream healthy meals and should be shelved separately. The research also reinforced the need for a healthy-living destination. Those retailers that implemented such a destination grew the meat substitute category twice as fast as those without the destination.

Kellogg identified the least incremental brands in retail assortments and recommended replacing them with offerings that would drive incremental demand, and also pinpointed duplicative brands. Retailers that removed the duplicative offerings experienced 11.3 percent growth and 10.8 percent velocity growth for the meat substitute category.

In the realm of product innovation, Kellogg introduced a total of 11 SKUs through September.

GROCERY -- NONFOODS

Laundry Detergents

Category Captain

Seventh Generation

Recently acquired by Unilever, Seventh Generation is driving category trial and growth through "twinning," the pairing of conventional and green/natural products around a common theme. Faced with a perception of low availability, the company partnered with a national retailer to increase awareness, drive conversion to green/natural products, and understand the relationship and consumer interaction between various conventional and natural brands.

Seventh Generation designed an end cap display as a destination for shoppers looking for sensitive-skin laundry products, a growth segment; the initiative including special pricing, signage and ad support. The result: Twinning stores saw double-digit sales for the featured products and overall category. This technique is being expanded to other categories.

Health, Beauty & Wellness

Digestive Health

Category Advisor

Bayer HealthCare

Gastrointestinal issues are most likely to be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) products only, making digestive health an important category for retailers to get right. Bayer, which purchased Merck's OTC business in 2014, has become the only manufacturer with a presence in the six largest segments of the category.

The company helped advise retailers this year using insights from some major new shopper behavior studies, including a Shopper Decision Hierarchy. Its research provided a framework for the way manufacturers and retailers can merchandise, promote and target shoppers. First, a maintenance approach targeted consumers who already suffer from digestive health issues, and therefore must continue to take care of symptoms as they occur. Secondly, consumers could be more proactive by taking products such as proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), which reduce gastric acid production. Last, products such as fiber and probiotics helped shoppers take the most proactive approach.

Within this framework, Bayer identified four levers needed to activate the desired behavior: targeting, education, promotion and merchandising. The program is still early in its execution, but retailer feedback already has been overwhelming, according to Bayer.

Hair Care

Category Captain

Unilever

In a crowded category in which 40 percent of shoppers buy on deal, Unilever worked with retailers to help them move away from aggressive promotion and toward product equity and meaningful innovation to drive healthy category growth.

Through effective and efficient promotion, product mix, consumer education and expanding regimen usage, Unilever helped perceived purchase on promotion swing down for the first time in five years. Unilever also pushed for smarter innovation that drove regimen usage and bigger baskets. As such, the company effectively helped retailers avoid the pitfall of continued promotional devaluation.

Foot Care

Category Advisor

Reckitt Benckiser

With the $1 billion-plus foot care category languishing, Reckitt Benckiser (RB) aimed to connect with shoppers more emotionally and less functionally with a new brand and product line. Its launch of Amope appears to have reinvented this sleepy category, and the upward trends have continued in 2016.

RB invested significantly in consumer insights, redefining the category for shoppers and retailers, and identifying three core segments: aid, comfort and care. Amope, which targets women and gifters, also represents a significant trade-up opportunity. Over the past year, Amope has introduced new shopper marketing programs, created secondary placement opportunities, and introduced new on-shelf displays and education.

Infant/Toddler Nutrition

Category Captain

Abbott Nutrition

Abbott Nutrition joined forces with a national retailer to boost sales of its PediaSure brand while growing the overall infant/toddler nutrition category. The strategy included executing a 360-degree shopper marketing program, as well as featuring PediaSure in a checklane display for the first time, at a national retailer. Meanwhile, the retailer implemented a new pricing strategy communication at the shelf, with promotional offers/coupons focused on the purchase of multiples.

All of this work paid off: Total kid/toddler nutrition sales jumped an impressive 10.2 percent, while PediaSure sales grew 11 percent, and the number of households buying PediaSure grew 14.3 percent. Stores that implemented the checklane displays outsold the nondisplay stores by 42 percent, while producing half the rate of out-of-stocks observed in nondisplay stores.

Oral Electrolytes

Category Captain

Abbott Nutrition

A national retailer was looking for growth opportunities in the $200 million oral electrolyte category, and Abbott Nutrition, maker of Pedialyte, was a natural fit as a category management partner. Abbott leveraged its strong brand performance and category leadership in helping the retailer plan additional placement throughout the store to boost impulse purchases.

Abbott's research discovered that 71 percent of shoppers expect to find Pedialyte outside of the baby aisle, and 60 percent of parents like to stock up before dehydration hits their households. The manufacturer also recommended expanding the oral electrolyte section within the baby aisle. In addition, the companies worked together to plan special promotions throughout the year. Since the implementations, the retailer has seen an amazing 22 percent growth in sales.

Sun Care

Category Captain

Bayer HealthCare

Sun care delivers one of the highest market baskets in beauty care, yet more than 1.7 million fewer households shopped the category between 2012 and 2015, according to Bayer. After the company took over the Coppertone business as part of its merger with Merck in 2014, it identified challenges and opportunities for growth.

Bayer invested in shopper and consumer insights, and began constructing a strategic thought leadership plan that was shared with retailers in spring 2015. The overall theme of the new initiative was "Putting the U Back in Sun." Its three pillars were: 1) Personal -- Find ways to increase consumer education and motivation about the risks associated with sun exposure, specifically for Millennials; 2) Relevant -- Retailers must focus on the entire category rather than a single segment to ensure growth (and also pay attention to item and brand proliferation that can make shopping a challenge); and 3) Enjoyable -- Sun care should be associated with fun time and family.

Since Bayer has introduced its new efforts, category dollar sales at multioutlets during the past season have improved 2.5 percent.

Sexual Well-being

Category Advisor

Reckitt Benckiser

An often-forgotten category, sexual well-being is challenging to manage as retailers struggle with how to merchandise it, best educate shoppers and manage privacy concerns. Reckitt Benckiser (RB) invested in insights and innovation, and uncovered hidden growth potential in the condom and lubricant segments.

RB's Durex brand is growing, with a focus on new products at higher price points that are driving category sales growth, while KY is investing in innovation and connecting with consumers in new ways. New shopper insights over the past year have uncovered the decision hierarchy for this $637 million category, new paths to purchase and different drivers for selecting different types of retail outlets.

Upper-respiratory Care

Category Advisor

Bayer HealthCare

Upper-respiratory care, the largest segment within over-the-counter health, continued to experience annual growth, as well as strong productivity. However, the category is broad and fragmented. Bayer worked with several retailers to test new shelf configuration and signage, all the while incorporating critical shopper insights to enhance shopability.

Its strategy, dubbed "Maximizing Upper Respiratory," delved into treatment options, symptoms and duration for shoppers who suffer from upper-respiratory ailments. Out-of-store communication stressed regional and seasonal occurrences of allergies. Bayer also worked to identify which segments and subsegments are part of the category, and which ones are ancillary. In addition, the company identified optimal adjacencies for the category and determined the best assortments for each retailer, given space constraints.

Vitamins & Supplements

Category Captain

Pharmavite

Using loyalty card data, Pharmavite helped retailers better understand cross-purchasing relationships among different brands, identifying ones to be advertised together and recommending which should be positioned adjacent to one another.

Since the majority of vitamin consumers are searching for a specific product type or a product addressing a specific need state, Pharmavite divided 80-plus product segments into 19 need states and designed a power sector consolidating the category into 13 product-type groupings. The company also worked to improve sections' lighting, color and ambience for a warmer, more engaging shopping experience.

Pharmavite advised retailers on merchandising sections based on need state and power sector organizational segmentation, which involved positioning these product groups adjacent to one another to address multiple need states or the need for multiple power sectors.

At retailers where Pharmavite is the category advisor, vitamin category dollar sales grew 6 percent, while only growing 4 percent at other retailers.

PERIMETER

Fresh Baked Goods -- Cakes

Category Advisor

CSM Bakery Solutions

CSM Bakery Solutions continued to capitalize on the success of its Hershey and Reese's Mousse Cakes program, bringing new shoppers to retailers' bakery sections. Sales data cited by CSM show that the Hershey cakes represented 1.7 percent of all dessert cake dollars, and 20.9 percent of total dessert cake growth, in the 52-week period ending May 28.

Meanwhile, Hershey/Reese's cakes accounted for 33 percent of the mousse cake segment of dessert cakes, and represented 74 percent of the segment dollar growth, for the same time period. CSM's recommendations for merchandising and promotional plans, including holiday-themed displays, helped drive retailers' success, according to the company.

Vitamins & Supplements

Category Advisor

Bayer HealthCare

Bayer's recent category review of vitamins and supplements unveiled several key factors. First, consumers are increasingly being influenced by other products that claim to fulfill their nutritional needs. Second, retailers themselves have at times lost sight of the connection between the category and broader health-and-wellness trends in their stores. Finally, from a shopper perspective, the complexity of the category keeps increasing, with more than 400-plus items on the shelf.

Armed with these insights, Bayer created a category management plan around the need for "Reconnection," urging retailers to reconnect the broader health-and-wellness arena with consumers, shoppers and, of course, their own stores. To help reach more Generation X and Millennial consumers, whose usage lags behind that of aging Americans, Bayer developed a social media strategy. Some retailers supplemented the campaign with category-focused direct-mail campaigns. Since the introduction of Bayer's program in mid-2015, the category has seen a strong positive trend: IRI dollar sales have improved from flat sales in 2014 to growth of 4.3 percent in 2015.

Dairy -- Milk

Category Captain

Dean Foods

For years, the milk category suffered from declining sales and consumption. A commodity mentality prevailed, with shoppers perceiving all products as being alike, and retailers responded with promotions below cost. In 2010, Dean Foods decided to lead the charge for category transformation. Its collection of 60-plus local milk dairies began to work toward building the first truly national milk brands. Since that time, Dean has rolled out a Five-Point Purity Promise that aligns to consumers' desires for dairy without hormones and antibiotics; built two strong milk brands, Dairy Pure and TruMoo; simplified business by offering a national UPC; shared promotional strategies that create real value around the milk purchase; and invested more than $35 million in consumer advertising, PR and shopper marketing to reignite passion for the category.

Dairy -- Yogurt

Category Captain

General Mills

The yogurt category remains poised for growth -- in fact, it's projected to attain a 6 percent compound annual growth rate by 2020, according to General Mills, maker of Yoplait. The company continued to offer its category management expertise to retailers to capitalize on that growth.

In the past year, General Mills has consulted its retail partners to consider expanding their yogurt space, noting that stores that recently expanded by just 2 feet saw 4 percent higher growth than stores that remained space-neutral. In March, the supplier released a new yogurt category growth story based on consumer insights that highlight opportunities to optimize the shelf set, assortment and merchandising. One key insight was that retailers must allocate an optimal mix of segments and brands on the shelf to drive growth, especially as Greek trends start to plateau nationally.

In terms of innovation, Yoplait launched Plenti Oatmeal meets Greek Yogurt at the beginning of 2016. The brand also introduced Annie's Organic Yogurt to appeal to the ever-growing kid segment, and Go Big for teenagers.

Deli -- Prepared Foods

Category Captain

Hormel Foods

Hormel Foods' Deli by Design program aimed to create a total deli experience. Leveraging internal research, the Hormel team found that prepared foods flourish with the aid of three major trends -- global cuisine growth, elevated home-style products and desire for protein -- and worked with retailers on such solutions as authentic and globally inspired products.

Further, to increase awareness and drive trial in a category that typically doesn't receive media support, Hormel executed an "Already Ready" Hormel Gatherings party tray campaign in 2016. The campaign encompassed social media expansion to Facebook and Pinterest, targeted digital banner ads, involvement with the mobile shopping app Shopkick, digital video, Pandora radio ads, and a public relations "Play On" Party in Chicago.

This integrated marketing plan, together with sales execution, led to a 10.5 percent dollar sales lift, an 8.5 percent volume increase, and a 1.7-point rise in total U.S. distribution, among other positive results.

Deli -- Meat & Cheese

Category Captain

Dietz & Watson

While most of the industry buzz related to deli is around prepared foods, deli meat and cheese remain important pillars, accounting for a collective 38 percent of national deli sales, according to Dietz & Watson. During the past year, Dietz & Watson prioritized category management partnerships to provide retailers with a deeper understanding of their deli performance and consumers. Internally, the company began to focus more on data and analytics, hiring seven new analytic managers to better understand retailers' deli case performances. It also used consumer insights and point-of-sale data to develop new store-specific planograms.

In just one example of success, Dietz & Watson helped a regional grocer grow its share of the cheddar cheese category. After identifying an opportunity gap, the supplier suggested adding an additional cheese flavor to the bulk case, and followed up with limited-time offer promotions on two other cheese flavors. In one year's time, the retailer increased its cheddar cheese market share by an impressive 4.7 percentage points.

Deli -- Prepared Foods

Category Captain

Tyson Foods

Tyson Foods continued to demonstrate leadership in managing the popular deli prepared food category, most recently with its Velocity Process, which provides retailers with actionable, data-driven recommendations. The process uses third-party and proprietary data to uncover growth opportunities within a retailer's prepared food department.

First, with its Acceleration Plan, Tyson can pinpoint stores that are under- or overperforming based on velocity and demand indices. Next the Vector Plan provides the retailer with an operational blueprint for achieving maximum velocity. Tyson worked with a major northeastern retailer to identify opportunity gaps in its prepared chicken business. Within eight weeks of implementation, the three test stores experienced double-digit sales increases. Further Tyson continued to refine its brand-agnostic "Consequence of Failure" study which exposes service lapses that impact retailer loyalty and future visits.

Deli - Prepared Foods

Category Advisor

Blount Fine Foods

Blount Fine Foods, a leader in the fresh retail soup category, continued to grow the segment and attract new customers. This year, the company announced the national launch of a full line of premium organic soups. Blount Organic's national promotional program, a first for the company, has been elevating consumer awareness of fresh soups.

Meanwhile, Blount worked with a new roster of major grocers to roll out fully integrated fresh soup programs. The most successful retailers took Blount's advice and cross-sold between their deli-based, hot-to-go prepared food programs and value-added SKUs in their refrigerated food sections, according to the company. Blount's most familiar brands, Legal Sea Foods and Panera Bread, helped draw shoppers' attention, while its private label lineup offered great quality at a slightly lower price point.

Variable-/Fixed-weight Meat

Category Captain

Hormel Foods

Since Hormel Foods introduced its all-natural, fully cooked taco meat line, the total heat-and-serve category has grown 4 percent. Additionally, ingredient meats are up 6 percent, with Hormel taco meats making up 45 percent of the growing segments.

Hormel discovered that meal solution promotions work for these types of products: When its taco meats were displayed with Wholly Guacamole and shredded cheese, the result was a 245 percent unit lift and 230 percent dollar lift, driven by ACV display support of 55 percent.

The refrigerated dinner group category grew $7.5 million at a major West Coast retailer, with Hormel products accounting for 14 percent, or $1.1 million, of that growth.

Further, Hormel conducted research finding that usage supersedes temperature state, kits and snacks act as nearly a separate category, and value is the top consideration for purchasers, enabling the company to develop a high-level decision tree to help guide recommendations for retailers.

Protein Snacks

Category Advisor

Hormel Foods

After its research showed that refrigerated protein kits and snacks function as an independent category, and that consumers seek a snacking destination in the processed meat case with segmentation for kids, adults and value offerings, Hormel Foods collaborated with retailers to create a mobile-snacking protein set within the lunchmeat wall.

An East Coast retailer tested the snacking set in 11 stores, which had almost 60 percent more dollar sales and units than its other stores; the concept was accordingly rolled out to all of the retailer's locations. Two other major retailers that have dedicated significant space to refrigerated mobile snacking grew mobile-snacking sales and the segments where the space was sourced, aided by successful promotions.

The refrigerated protein snack segment has grown 52 percent this year, and the space dedicated to the mobile-snacking set hasn't negatively affected the segment where the space was sourced, proving the previous redundancy in the lunchmeat wall.

PERIMETER -- VARIABLE-/FIXED-WEIGHT PRODUCE

Apples/Cherries/Pears

Category Advisor

Stemilt Growers

Stemilt leveraged Nielsen data to create custom reports for its Fruit Tracker templates, which helped its retailer partners explore how their assortments were performing compared with the rest of the market.

Partnering with Washington State University, Stemilt conducted consumer surveys on new items, organics, pricing, selection, packaging, merchandising and other purchase factors. This real-time research allowed Stemilt to guide retailers on selection, pricing, packaging and signage.

This three-pronged approach added value to Stemilt's ability to advise retailers on where produce categories are headed in the future. Stemilt plans to use this data to create short videos to deliver category guidance more quickly and effectively.

Avocados

Category Captain

Del Monte Fresh Produce

When a regional grocer began to experience lackluster avocado sales, Del Monte Fresh developed a pricing and promotional strategy to help it be more in line with the market, resulting in more competitive average retail pricing, and an increase in the number of ads the following year.

The company conducted an ongoing analysis of the retailer's and total market's sales results, pricing, and dollar and pound share; employed demographic software to identify the retailer's typical consumers, as well as its stores' most significant competitive threats; and used ad-tracking data to help evaluate the retailer's and its competition's promotional activity.

For the most recent 52 weeks, the retailer's Hass avocado category surpassed the rest of the market in both dollar and pound sales growth. Dollar sales rose more than 15 percent versus the prior year, and volume sales saw a gain of nearly 35 percent.

Avocados

Category Advisor

Avocados From Mexico

In 2016, Avocados From Mexico (AFM) rolled out several innovative marketing initiatives. Building on the success of its inaugural Big Game campaign, AFM launched an "Avos in Space" commercial during the 2016 Super Bowl, and supplemented the excitement with social media engagement. The supplier also produced a float for Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, upping awareness during a major food holiday.

In the spring, AFM joined forces with prominent New York City food trucks, popular bloggers and others to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. In supermarkets, AFM kicked off a fruit-labeling program to help drive brand awareness. The nationwide effort placed AFM stickers on the fruit at retail for the first time ever.

This program supplements the many shopper marketing programs that AFM continued to produce throughout the year, including its new AvoLifestyle Challenge. The organization's efforts are paying off, as avocado sales increased more than $145 million for the 2015--16 season.

Bananas

Category Captain

Chiquita

During the past year, Chiquita helped further evolve the banana category by re-engaging with consumers via the launch of its Just Smile campaign, and by equipping retailers with recommendations for more thoughtful, fact-based promotional activity. The supplier also inspired shoppers' paths to purchase through a social media engagement strategy.

The Just Smile campaign leveraged a variety of content across social media platforms, and also included traditional advertising in outdoor venues. It successfully garnered 301 million impressions. In New York, where many ads were placed, one retailer saw volume sales increase 3.3 percent.

To help its retailer partners in category management, Chiquita tapped Nielsen Perishables Group to obtain a better understanding of banana promotional activity and create retailer toolkits for future promotional strategies. The supplier had determined that some retailers were promoting bananas at more of a discount than was necessary to capture sales.

Berries

Category Captain

Dole Fresh Vegetables

Dole used its category management experience in packaged salads to rethink the berry category, which has traditionally followed a primitive open-market, supply-demand relationship between growers and retailers. In 2016, the supplier worked with six select retailers to implement its trusted category-planning principles.

Dole downsized its supply position, focusing instead on consistency and predictability. Retailers' promotions were strategically matched with consumer demand. As a result, the six retailers grew seven points faster than national trends. Dole also invested heavily in shopper and consumer research in the past year. Its new insights helped guide a footprint for best practices in pricing, merchandising and promotions. The company even developed a first-of-its-kind consumer decision tree for the berry category, working with Nielsen and IRI. Not surprisingly, Dole has won category captaincy for berries at some of the country's largest supermarket operators.

Brussels Sprouts

Category Captain

Green Giant Fresh

With total U.S. Brussels sprouts growth at more than 20 percent, Green Giant Fresh (GGF) decided to add convenience to a growing segment with a Trimmed & Peeled Brussels Sprouts line. Two Northeastern retailers have experienced double-digit incremental sales lifts since stocking GGF value-added Brussels sprouts in their stores, and expect to see even stronger results heading into the 2016 fall/winter holiday season.

GGF also supported retailers with planogram schematics, category management, point-of-sale materials, and recipe cards. Additionally, GGF is introducing a customized category management portal to better meet the on-demand needs of a strategic national retailer partnership.

Celery

Category Captain

Duda Fresh Farms

Celery is among the top 10 vegetable categories in fresh produce, but a rapidly changing consumer demographic has affected the segment in recent years. Duda Fresh Farms stepped in this year to bring a new level of excitement to the category.

The company took a four-pronged approach comprising market, consumer and retailer research; innovation; consumer promotions; and category management initiatives. Research that Duda commissioned discovered, among other things, that healthy snacking trends provide a growth opportunity in celery. Duda responded by developing a snacking celery stick line built around a baseball theme, launching the item with a national promotion featuring instant redeemable coupons and a strong online marketing campaign centered on social media.

Duda's innovation helped grow the snacking celery segment by 18.9 percent. One major retailer saw snacking celery sales increase an amazing 52 percent, quarter over quarter.

Fresh-pack (Commodity) Vegetables

Category Captain

Dole Fresh Vegetables

In the past year, Dole Fresh identified an opportunity to rejuvenate several idle segments of the $20.7 billion commodity vegetable category. The company launched a proprietary variety of celery hearts that has been a great success with consumers. In fact, Dole's celery heart sales grew 30 percent across the total U.S. market.

To help revive whole-head lettuce, the company created a line of chef-inspired salad kits featuring whole heads of romaine lettuce. Test markets of Dole's Chef's Choice Caesar Salad Kit, supported by a shopper marketing campaign and in-store demos, exceeded performance expectations, according to the company. Meanwhile, Dole's retailer partners took advantage of best practices developed by the company's category management team. These guidelines were created using custom research and retailer performance data analysis.

Packaged Salads

Category Captain

Dole Fresh Vegetables

At the end of 2015, Dole expanded upon its Chopped Kits line, providing additional size offerings and flavor profiles to maximize product mix performance. This benefited its retailer partners by engaging new households and trading consumers up from lower-tier segments, which helped drive higher profitability.

In one example of its category management leadership, Dole worked with a regional retailer to institute a promotion strategy designed to optimize Premium Classics' promotional performance. After implementation, the retailer experienced increased promotional efficiency and continued growth in packaged salads. In another example, Dole helped a retailer deal with traffic loss by rolling out an aggressive joint promotional/shopper-targeted strategy to recapture and re-engage the most loyal households in the packaged salad category. The results were significant, growing high-loyalty households by 6 percent.

Mushrooms

Category Captain

Monterey Mushrooms

After Monterey Mushrooms helped a big-box retailer test assortment across 10 percent of its stores, employing everyday retails and a promotional strategy rotating all items over an eight-week period, units, total category pounds and sales increased markedly at the test stores, with net profits growing 19.9 percent, versus 8.9 percent at all of its stores. The retailer is now transitioning all stores.

To help another customer maximize category sales and profits to support other department promotions, Monterey evaluated the market, adjusted everyday retails and store sets, and created a promotional strategy that grew category sales and net profits by double digits.

By evaluating the market, reviewing assortment, setting everyday retails and creating a promotional plan, Monterey helped a Mid-South retailer boost organic mushroom sales from a 6.7 percent share to a 19.4 percent share of category sales, while overall category sales, unit and pound growth all outpaced that of the market.

Packaged Salads

Category Advisor

Fresh Express

Fresh Express invested in some of the most sophisticated tools to help drive a 360-degree view of the packaged salad category. Its category management team could now gain visibility into trip mission, category leakage, buyer conversion, product switching, cross-purchase/co-purchase activity, trial and repeat, and a host of other drivers to help elevate the level of engagement with its retail partners.

Additionally, the supplier commissioned an in-depth consumer decision tree analysis to gain an understanding of the consumer decision process for salads, helping drive new assortment and merchandising strategies. In the past year, Fresh Express worked closely with multiple grocers to rethink their packaged salad sections. In one instance, the company helped a retailer create an all-new category business plan for salads.

Potatoes

Category Captain

Idaho Potato Commission

The Idaho Potato Commission (IPC) continued to develop its category management tools with retailer-focused data demonstrating the strength of the Idaho brand in driving sales not only in produce, but also the whole store.

The group's work with a major southeastern grocery chain showed how the presence of Idaho potatoes over generic products increased the likelihood of return visits. IPC provided all retailers with in-depth, brand-agnostic category reviews to gauge performance among sister stores as well as competitors, with acted-upon recommendations routinely bringing positive results. IPC also continued year-round retailer contacts through its quarterly Potato Retailing Today publication, POS materials and Big Idaho Potato Truck tour.

Value-added Vegetables

Category Captain

Mann Packing Co.

Mann Packing Co. joined forces with a Southwest retailer on a vegetable tray/snacking set. Mann's Snacking Favorites trays increased the retailer's overall value-added vegetable sales by 12 percent, proving so successful that the retailer is now converting them to its own brand.

The company partnered with a Central region retailer to grow its overall category by focusing on sugar snap peas and offering various sizes without cannibalizing the category. The introduction of a family-size bag added 18 percent incremental sales to the retailer's existing sugar snap pea business.

A national retailer that transitioned core convenience vegetable items from bags to clamshell packaging showed 50 percent growth. Mann's was able to define where the growth actually came from, thereby keeping the retailer from increasing cost and waste.

Methodology

Progressive Grocer's annual Category Captains competition recognizes the outstanding category management initiatives implemented in the retail grocery sector over the 12-month period ending Sept. 2. 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 on the following pages.

Our Category Captains awards program is predicated on the accuracy and completeness of the entries 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 during the specified measuring period, 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.

The award criteria factored into the judging of the entries are as follows:

* * Creativity in merchandising, marketing, promotion and advertising

* * Application of shopper insights

* * Innovative, dynamic category management tools

* * Demonstrated commitment to meeting retail partners' specific needs

* * Effectiveness at differentiating a line or brand within a category

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

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

* * Effectiveness at growing sales beyond the category

* * Effectiveness at facilitating shopper-centric solutions focused on consumer need states

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

* * Product innovation

To win the premier Category Captain award, contestants are required to demonstrate excellence in all of the above criteria in their entries. Category Advisors also exhibit high competence, but to a lesser degree and/or in fewer of the above areas, and thus are ranked lower overall than the threshold set for Category Captaincy. Both designations reflect outstanding contributions to the industry at the category level.

There may be multiple Captains in a particular category if our editors believe the competing entries to be worthy of such merit. There may be Advisors in categories where no Captain is awarded if our editors believe that the entries didn't merit top honors but deserved recognition. Lone entry in a particular category doesn't guarantee selection as a winner.
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Author:Dudlicek, Jim
Publication:Progressive Grocer
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2016
Words:10826
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