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WINNERS LIST.

GROCERY

Foods and Beverages

Category Captain

Alcoholic Beverages - Beer

Anheuser-Busch

Faced with an overall beer category gone flat, Anheuser-Busch commissioned a study of 128 retailers to explore the effectiveness of different merchandising strategies. This study aimed to explore, and help retailers understand, the emerging craft segment trend and how to effectively market to consumers, given this shift in the beer category.

The findings? Retailers focusing on one segment at the expense of another can win, but taking a balanced approach to the category grows market share higher and more often. This analysis has helped show retailers how to win with all beer and total alcohol sales, by focusing on assortment, promotional support, shopper engagement and retail analysis.

With A-B's category guidance, grocers have seen growth revitalization in the beer category. Premium has stopped a two-year decline; value has slowed its decline, with the smallest losses since 2009; FMBs and craft continue to show growth; and, thanks to a few new products, premium plus has had tremendous gains.

Category Captain

Baby Formula/Toddler Nutritionals

Abbott Nutrition

Business has been down in the $6.8 billion baby care category (which includes baby food, infant formula and other consumables such as toddler nutritionals), so Abbott Nutrition has been hard at work with its retail partners to turn things around.

In one example, Abbott worked with a national retailer to make merchandising recommendations to improve category shopability. Historically, the retailer hadn't leveraged toddler nutritionals as a point of maintaining shoppers while promoting the baby care aisle. Abbott developed a new planogram based on consumer purchase patterns. Shelf space was expanded, while SKU assortment resets were completed in about 2,000 stores across the country. Toddler nutritionals, including Abbott's PediaSure brand, were placed in consistent 4-foot blocks anchoring baby formula. The changes coincided with Abbott's national rollout promoting new toddler nutritional items, such as PediaSure SideKicks. In-store demos were executed at the top 206 non-WIC stores.

Thanks to Abbott's help, the retailer's total baby care category was up 4.7 percent after the resets. Infant formula improved by 4 percent, toddler nutritionals were up 14 percent, and the electrolyte category improved by 7.7 percent. In addition, the households purchasing toddler nutritionals increased 11 percent.

In another case, Abbott worked with a Northeast retailer to boost infant formula sales (Abbott makes the popular Similac brand). Abbott implemented new planogram concepts for all of the retailer's banners. Changes included merchandising by formula types, and carving out a 4-foot kid/toddler vertical block for ease of shopping and to target the different shopper segment. Thanks to the new arrangements, year-to-date formula is up 7 percent, which has helped drive an increase of 8.2 percent for the total infant toddler nutrition category.

Category Captain

Alcoholic Beverages - Wine

E&J Gallo Winery

Gallo worked with a major Southeastern retailer to reinvent the traditional category management process using innovative tools, real-time intelligence, engaging strategy drivers and a blueprint for category growth. The process drives engagement at senior levels by focusing on what's important to Gallo's partners. The visual, metric-driven blueprints create a strategic plan to follow, and progress is tracked on an ongoing basis using real-time intelligence allowing for on-the-fly course correction.

Gallo worked with its partner to determine the largest opportunities, and then helped the retailer align its business goals and category objectives. Focusing on two non-Gallo brands that accounted for about a quarter of the retailer's luxury business, Gallo developed a comprehensive plan that made luxury wine more accessible and encouraged shoppers to purchase for multiple occasions.

As a result, the retailer's wine category grew at twice the rate of the competitive market, the superpremium segment at 2.5 times, and the targeted luxury segment more than five times. Since the initial period, category growth has accelerated further.

Category Captain

Baby/Toddler Food

Nestle Infant Nutrition

Nestle Infant Nutrition continues to lead the baby/toddler food category, thanks to its ever-evolving Gerber brand, which holds a 73 percent share of the market. In the past few years, Nestle helped grow the category even more by launching Gerber Graduates Grabbers and Gerber Organic Pouches. The pouches account for approximately one-third ($26 million) of total pouch year-to-date dollar growth.

On the category management front, Nestle joined forces with several retailers to help reinvent the total baby aisle. Nestle's team provided insights on consumer, shopper and category dynamics, leading to space allocation, placement and assortment recommendations. The company also tested stage-based navigation and educational signage, which resulted in a 4 percent lift for the category, as well as increased browsing and engagement in the aisle, not to mention elevated shopper perception of the retailers.

Thanks to Nestle's hard work, one of its retail partners asked the company to become a "strategic captain/advisor" across the total baby department.

Category Advisor

Breakfast Foods - Ready-to-eat Cereal

The Kellogg Co.

Working in its historic realm, the Kellogg Co. is helping to drive growth in the $3.5 billion kids' segment of the $9 billion RTE cereal category.

Kellogg's growth in kids' cereal has blossomed to nearly three times the total segment, the fastest-growing area of the entire cold cereal business. Kellogg's Krave cereal has generated nearly 90 percent of the added growth dollars in the kids' segment, including use beyond traditional occasions as a snack outside of meal times. With U.S. key retailers, the product has delivered substantial gains and remains a big focus on shelf; the Krave brand has taken a nearly 3 percent share of the U.S. kids' cereal business.

Kellogg continues to support customers with executional plans that reflect the specific needs of local shoppers, opportunities in their business, and customer marketing programs.

The company has invested in tools focused on better serving customer needs, including technology to rethink shelf design and potential innovation from a flow perspective. Kellogg also recently finished a study that focused on the future of the breakfast occasion, among other ongoing research.

Category Captain

Breakfast Foods - Ready-to-Eat Cereal

General Mills

While the $10 billion ready-to-eat (RTE) cereal category experienced a slowing in unit growth over the past few quarters, General Mills continues to lead the way for new growth opportunities through proprietary insights and retailer strategies in distribution, merchandising, shelf work and pricing that lead to best-practice principles, in addition to on-trend new products.

Through a Nielsen study on the role of size in the cereal category, General Mills found size of a particular brand wasn't linked to a specific demographic profile, but instead some demographic groups buy across all sizes, depending on their life stage and the presence of kids.

Using a newly segmented demand transfer tool, General Mills can help retailers identify optimal distribution based on the competitive market and account strategy. The company continues to enhance its Smart Bundler tool, a proprietary capability that optimizes merchandising across manufacturers and increases total household reach for cereal.

Consistently delivering overall category growth capabilities to retailers, General Mills aims to change the way retailers think and behave in total center store and dry grocery, to improve store loyalty and drive profitable category dollar growth.

Category Co-Captain

Candy

Mars Chocolate North America

Yet again exhibiting its category leadership, Mars Chocolate North America launched its Mars Assortment Explorer, an innovative tool that generates more effective range recommendations, resulting in a 2 percent-to-7 percent increase in confectionery dollar sales for retailers.

The goal is to improve overall retail performance through the use of profit-generating category management platforms and provide strategic recommendations in the best interests of the consumer and, most importantly, the retailer's category.

Mars Assortment Explorer uses in-depth analyses to measure the incremental impact of changing the SKUs or the facings in a mix to arrive at the optimal assortment recommendation. When conducting assortment and space analysis, a retailer can employ multiple methods to determine an item's incremental contribution and measure cannibalization.

One national retailer commented, "Without the support from Assortment Explorer, we would have been forced to rely on metrics that attempt to quantify incrementality, but are not as accurate."

Mars also offers a complementary set of shelving and assortment best practices across four key areas of the store: front end/checkout, secondary displays, seasonal/promotional, and in-aisle.

Category Captain

Coffee

The J.M. Smucker Co.

With its broad coffee portfolio, including the Folgers and Millstone brands, the J.M. Smucker Co. entered into the one-cup brewer category, first with pods and then with K-cups. Since the initial launch, Smucker has continued to push out on new items and expand its presence in the K-cup segment.

Smucker conducted research on the warm beverage aisle to build a comprehensive knowledge base regarding how to optimize the coffee category. Although Smucker doesn't compete in all of these categories, it was important to include them to better understand aisle flow and optimization.

Smucker has shared these key insights with retail partners to grow the coffee business overall, leading to increased K-cup assortment and dollar share gains over the retailers' comp market. The K-cup custom research findings have been presented and shared with several major retailers. Based on Smucker's insights, a Southern grocery retailer increased space and assortment for K-cups, boosting its dollar share of market growth by more than 10 percent for the segment.

Category Co-Captain

Candy

The Hershey Co.

Hershey continues to demonstrate its mastery of the candy category, most recently with its new Insights Driven Performance (IDP) process that drives the strategic annual planning process, and enables greater customer alignment and collaboration. Through Hershey's new process, partners work collaboratively to ensure relative insights are shared to drive targeted performance. Simply stated, Hershey's new category approach has developed a collaborative approach to unlocking consumer demand.

Teaming up with a Southwestern regional grocery chain in September 2011, Hershey used the IDP process to uncover the biggest opportunity within the category and identify key sales gaps. The biggest opportunity? Base distribution, considered to be the most profitable way to drive sales, but often the toughest.

The Hershey team provided a proprietary set-size calculator so the grocer could understand the projected category dollar growth by store. This helped gain alignment from the retailer's leadership, ultimately activating the base business solution.

The grocer boosted its average candy gondola set size from 20 feet to 28-32 feet in most of its stores, based on the outcome of the collaborative IDP process. Early projections have shown an incremental double-digit increase in base take-home sales.

Category Captain

Canned and Packaged Beverages - Juice Drinks

The Campbell Soup Co.

Powered by a relentless focus on the consumer and a radically different approach to innovation, the Campbell Soup Co. is responding to a consumer environment that's becoming more complicated and demanding.

Campbell is delivering strong growth in shelf-stable juice, a $9 billion category that's been flat to declining in recent years, with a winning combination of innovation, advertising, one-on-one shopper marketing initiatives and gold-standard shelving principles.

The company's newly expanded V8 portfolio provides convenient products that help people incorporate more vegetables into their diets, including energy drinks, sparkling beverages that combine vegetables and fruits, and drinks aimed at kids.

For retailers, this innovation, along with shopper insights and category management, means profitable growth in the category, and new consumers in the beverage aisle.

Category Captain

Canned and Packaged Beverages - Soft Drinks

PepsiCo

Understanding how different stores can be within a specific retailer, banner or even city drove PepsiCo and a national retailer to look at allocating space differently. PepsiCo approached the project using a range of traditional space allocation methods, but focused these methods on a cluster of stores rather than a national view. Identifying the differences among the clusters assisted in the creation of design rules across beverage categories to capture maximum gain with no degradation to the overall shelf performance or increased capital investment.

Each cluster of stores has a unique assortment and merchandising schematic paying close attention to the products that will entice the shopper into the aisle. Helping the retailer focus on these items increases the shopability of the aisle and appropriately allocates space for high-turning items, thereby reducing out-of-stocks.

Key concepts that resulted in category growth include expanding visibility to growing segments such as woman energy and healthy energy drink segments, creating a ready-to-drink tea destination to showcase a tailored package mix and promotional strategy, and developing a premium carbonated soft drink or Hispanic section based on store cluster.

Category Advisor

Canned and Packaged Goods - Baking Ingredients, Spices and Seasonings

Pinnacle Foods Group

With 81 percent household penetration, the baking category is arguably the most important in dry center store. Pinnacle Foods Group enables retailers to compete differently to win in this space by enabling them to sell more high-profit Duncan Hines frostings within their current footprint.

A core base frosting, or starter, that consumers can mix with any Duncan Hines Frosting Creations flavor packets solves the consumer need for variety and the retailer need for improved efficiency of space. The packets allows Duncan Hines to differentiate itself by offering unique flavors, while retailers use only a fraction of the space a traditional frosting can would require. Plus Pinnacle's shelving system not only attracts attention, but also makes it easy for customers to see the product and understand how it works.

Five months after its launch in February 2012, the product had brought new base sales of $5 million to the category, with 5 percent category gains for retailers that carried the item, versus a 6 percent drop for those that didn't. Frosting Creations also drove high velocities for certain flavors during key weeks; for instance, the mint variety was the No. 1 seller during St. Patrick's Day, when historically, such a product would never have been carried.

One to Watch: Giving it Back

Coca-Cola's merchandising for the environment shows promise for boosting the soft drink category.

The Coca-Cola Co.'s 2020 Vision has pinpointed the recycling of 100 percent of its packaging as one of its core strategic priorities. To that end, the company has created its "Give it Back" merchandising equipment program to engineer recycling solutions with practical business applications.

"I think it's an excellent step, and I hope more companies do the same."

Coca-Cola's Give It Back racks are part of the company's initiative to advance the sustainability pillar of "Live Positively," while focusing on optimizing packaging for merchandising equipment in retail outlets. Every unit is 100 percent recyclable, while also meeting robust design and productivity standards.

The racks are Coke's first step toward a comprehensive, closed-loop retail equipment program to create recyclable in-store merchandise racks and then recover, reuse or recycle them - an industry first. This "cradle to cradle" initiative resulted in a complete Give It Back family of merchandising solutions, many of which are modular and reusable in nature.

"It is a fantastic program to show that Coca-Cola is committed to a sustainable business model."

Leveraging shopper insights, Coke cites Hartman research noting that 70 percent of shoppers consider sustainability when making choices in store. Of the company's "Live Positively" platforms, according to its own research, environmental initiatives score highest among women shoppers.

The designs are based on Coke's 3D Visual Identity System, which leverages proprietary brand form equities to distinguish its venders, coolers and merchandise equipment in the retail space. The retail design strategy revolves around "upcycling," or creating more value from repurposed or recycled material.

This program is in year one of rollout, during which time the company has shipped more than 131,000 wood, metal, and corrugate Give It Back racks to bottler partners for use in the retail channel. For example, the Dasani Plant Bottle corrugated cardboard rack can be recycled by retailers with a cardboard box baler normally used for recycling cardboard boxes.

"I think it is a simple idea using cool design to actually do well for the environment."

*Anonymous retailer comments on Give It Back program.

Category Captain

Canned and Packaged Goods - Baking Ingredients, Spices and Seasonings

General Mills

In the baking/pancake mix category, General Mills maintains the leading dollar share position and is No. 1 in household penetration, while the company's Gold Medal flour brand is the segment share leader, having grown dollar sales by 6 percent in 2011, according to Nielsen.

General Mills' formidable category management armory includes the Baking Aisle Platform offering guidance to retailers on optimal category adjacencies and aisle flow; the Baking Aisle Path to Purchase study of consumer attitudes, decisions and behaviors throughout the purchase cycle; a partnership with Kantar to develop the Demand Transfer Web-based SKU optimization tool for the flour segment; a Nielsen flour category shelf audit yielding such insights as category base footage recommendations; and a collaboration with Willard Bishop on the Top Shopper SKU optimization tool, which merges item loyalty with scan data to help identify optimal assortment mix. Coming in January 2013 is an update to the Flour Category Platform, whose last version, in 2011, offered key findings in such areas as base price sensitivities.

Knowing that more than two-thirds of Bisquick usage is for pancakes and waffles but eager to spur incremental category growth, General Mills launched a campaign in August 2012 to show some of the other baked goods that consumers could make with the versatile product, thereby growing overall baking/pancake mix category dollar sales by 2 percent, and its own dollar sales by 3 percent, Nielsen found. The company also works with retailers to use Bisquick as the anchor for an in-store meal solution feature or display merchandising.

Further, to improve aisle shopability, General Mills developed bold, contemporary Gold Medal packaging in 2011 to communicate "Farm to Table" positioning.

Category Captain

Canned and Packaged Foods - Desserts

General Mills

General Mills, the dollar share leader in desserts, is recognized as category captain at 14 out of the top 20 retailers, including four out of the top five. To enhance its category leadership in 2012, the company leveraged a new Path to Purchase Study to unlock growth ideas, developed new tools to capture key holiday baking opportunities and rolled out exciting new products.

Through its research, General Mills found that, to grow the large and profitable dessert aisle, manufacturers and retailers should focus on bringing inspirational solutions to the millennial shopper, as this demographic overindexes with regard to baking and will represent 63 percent of U.S. households with children by 2020, according to the 2010 U.S Census. To create inspiration, retailers can bring "hero" recipes and images to life in store and digitally.

Elevating in-store holiday merchandising is key to driving growth in desserts. In 2012, General Mills expanded its bake center merchandising guidance to include a retailer-specific assortment recommendation for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The center features necessary holiday building blocks that cross various segments of the aisle, including mixes, spices, pie filling and flour, with critical SKUs varying by retailer and holiday occasion. Retailers with best-in-class bake centers outperformed U.S. category and aisle dollar growth for the season, according to Nielsen.

Additionally, General Mills' occasion-based shelf set increases shopability and spurs sales. Since a large Southern retailer converted to the shelf set last year, its baseline unit sales have improved 9.7 percent over last year, Nielsen notes.

Finally, to bring incremental growth to the category, General Mills introduced two product platforms, Shake N Pour Desserts and Cereal Equity Muffins, as well as extensions to its Fun Da Middles, Cookie Pouch and Supermoist Cake product lines, while the Betty Crocker brand bowed 11 seasonal in-out items this year to drive category dollar sales during the holidays.

Category Captain

Canned and Packaged Foods - Dry Packaged Potatoes

General Mills

Holding a leading share position in this $487 million category hasn't kept General Mills from exploring new ways to grow the category and retailers' basket rings.

Buttressed by Betty Crocker's broad portfolio, targeted innovation, convenient options for busy families, and engaging promotions, General Mills last year conducted a full category shelf audit. Leveraging Willard Bishop's activity-based costing into total category profitability to help collaborate more effectively with retailers, the company discovered continued opportunity for growth by adopting shelf best practices that improve shopability, ensure enough space for the most productive SKUs and boost category sales.

To add flexibility in the potato section, General Mills implemented a case pack reduction on its Betty Crocker Potato Buds, allowing retailers to better align space allocation with sales. Ultimately, this shelf efficiency tactic improved pack-out and increased profit for retailers by reducing overhead costs.

New items launched in 2012 delivered more convenience and variety to the category. Meanwhile, General Mills is reaching out to consumers through a variety of promotional efforts, including an innovative social media campaign that targets mothers through CafeMom, a popular website where mothers share dinner tips.

Category Captain

Canned and Packaged Foods - Dry Packaged Dinners

General Mills

With a stable of brands that have become synonymous with this $2.4 billion category, General Mills isn't content to rest on its laurels. As a category leader, the company has teamed with retailers to deliver consumer path-to-purchase insights, category best practice shelf recommendations and assortment guidance, and differentiated consumer support. These insights, coupled with innovative advertising and new items, are continuing to drive category growth.

Leveraging its own insights and a partnership with Nielsen and MarketTools, General Mills synthesized a shopper path to purchase that enabled it to identify strengths, opportunities and future growth strategies that revolve around breaking the day-to-day cycle for category shoppers.

The company audited nearly 3,000 stores nationally to assist in developing a gold-standard planogram that defines optimal shelf configuration to maximize category sales, and a consumer need continuum encompassing casual family and kid-driven meals. General Mills has further helped retailers boost sales by swapping slower-turning SKUs with more productive items.

Category Captain

Canned and Packaged Foods - Nut Spreads

Ferrero USA

Nutella from Ferrero USA is the No.1 dollar growth bread spread brand, with its 13-ounce size the second fastest-selling SKU in the nut spread category as a result of strong advertising and in-store marketing programs. This impressive growth was achieved despite limited shelf presence affecting shelf visibility, a high incidence of out-of-stocks, and placement on the top shelf near slow-selling specialty items.

As consumer demand and sales grow, Nutella's mission has become to build category sales by improving shelf merchandising conditions. Research with Edgewood Consulting yielded the following principles to advance category sales:

Place Nutella with Mainstream Spreads: When Nutella is placed on the top shelf, it's often out of reach.

Shelve Nutella Between Peanut Butter and Jelly: Sets with Nutella shelved next to mainstream peanut butter performed significantly better than sets with Nutella next to specialty items and preserves.

Capitalize on Incrementality: If shoppers can't find Nutella, the risk of losing that sale/customer is twice as high as for peanut butter and jelly/jam brands.

Proactively Address Out-of-stocks: Retailers can maximize sales by stocking both the 13- and 26.5-ounce sizes with the right location (center set) and adequate facings based on sales, profit contribution and turns.

Increased nut spread and Nutella dollar sales at a range of its retail partners across the country demonstrate the success of the brand's category management initiative.

Category Captain

Canned and Packaged Foods - Soups

The Campbell Soup Co.

The Campbell Soup Co. is building broader product platforms across the soup category, including new products and packaging in condensed, ready-to-serve (RTS) and broth product lines, with a particular focus on millennial shoppers.

Among the company's recent products shaped by insights along the path to purchase is premium Slow Kettle style RTS soup in clear plastic tubs, enabling the brand to move beyond the can. As well as creating a promising segment, Slow Kettle has generated significant sales in food/drug/mass and Walmart dollars. What's more, the item has been 50 percent incremental to Campbell's franchise and 21 percent incremental to the overall category, while attracting a younger, more affluent consumer base to the Campbell's brand, according to SymphonyIRI.

Slow Kettle has helped retailers drive growth into center store while attracting a new set of consumers. At one retailer, Slow Kettle Chipotle Chicken Chili was the No. 1 Campbell's new item launched in fiscal 2012 based on dollars year to date.

The product introduction provided a roadmap to the quick and effective launch of products in new categories that will continue to elevate the Campbell's name in previously uncharted consumer territory for the brand.

Category Captain

Canned and Packaged Foods - Shelf-Stable Vegetables

General Mills

General Mills' Green Giant brand helps retailers maximize their shelf-stable vegetables sales through investment in research, tools/capabilities, product innovation and a strong consumer plan.

New this year in the brand's category management toolbox was a regional look at the category, which led to the creation of a retailer guide to which segments and brands are most important to consumers within their respective markets.

A category scorecard gave retail partners best practice insights in such areas as assortment, variety and shelving. The company developed a best practice shelf set, with recommendations based on commodity and then segment, matching the shopper's path to purchase. The scorecard and best practice shelf set show retailers how to optimize the category's performance while enhancing shopability for the consumer.

With a goal is to double the number of vegetable servings consumed daily in the United States by 2025, Green Giant included the Weight Watchers Points endorsement and logo on the front of canned vegetables packaging in 2012. Green Giant has released five top-selling flavors in a 4-pack, which not only offers the consumer value and convenience, but also makes it easier for retailers to display, build basket ring and encourage stock-up purchases. When 4-packs are shelved as everyday items, company research found that they drive category incrementality of 76 percent.

Category Advisor

Canned and Packaged Foods - Soups

General Mills

At nearly $5.7 billion in sales, the soup category encompasses five key segments: ready-to-serve (RTS), condensed meal, condensed ingredient, broth and dry. In 2011, General Mills' Progresso brand drove the largest gains in both dollars and units in soup's largest segment, RTS, although these gains were offset by poor results from the other manufacturers in the category.

Having helped reverse the category's dollar declines of 2009 and 2010, Progresso continued to focus on the fundamentals of growing the category, but also began looking to the future of soup through expanding usage and occasions.

Through extensive research, Progresso found that category momentum slowed when RTS productivity declined because of an unproductive mix, negative messaging and lack of meaningful innovation. To address these issues, the brand recommended an emphasis on variety, taste and health; relaunched its Rich & Hearty product line; and debuted Soup Starters cooking sauce SKUs.

Nine of Progresso's top 10 soup accounts implemented the brand's key mix and merchandising tactics, and were able to grow their total soup dollars during soup season. Additionally, after multiple successful rack removal tests to improve shopability and expand distribution and space, two major retailers decided to remove all racks from the category, and two more in RTS only. The accounts that removed their RTS racks this year before soup season are outperforming their competitors.

Progresso is currently working with retail partners on a next-generation shelf set that incorporates segmentation of meal and ingredient soups, taste RTS SKUs blocked at eye level to drive incremental and impulse purchases, and rack removal to allow for simultaneous space optimization and assortment expansion.

Based on such efforts, the brand believes the soup category will achieve $1 billion in growth in the next five years.

Category Captain

Convenient Wholesome Foods

General Mills

General Mills continues to demonstrate ownership of this category, which represents nearly 30 percent of the $16.8 billion cereal aisle. The company is driving growth through objective category insights, innovation and brand support, and fact-based shelf strategies that its retail partners leverage to enhance sales and profit growth.

General Mills continues to drive growth and excitement through on-trend new product innovation, unique consumer promotions, best-in-class shelving recommendations and customer collaboration.

Fiber bars have grown into a $475 million business, with General Mills' Fiber One Bars driving segment growth. With more than half of consumers seeking to add more protein to their diets, Nature Valley Protein ranks in the top 5 percent of the category in dollars since its launch earlier this year.

Among other new products, kid-focused Fiber One Chewy bars and 90 Calorie Brownies have stretched the category wider, while the brand's new "all family" fruit snacks are expected to bring new consumers into this multigenerational category.

General Mills is pursuing space expansion for the category, showing retailers that expanding set sizes and employing vertical shelving lead to significant sales increases. Additionally, the company has aggressively pursued "test and learn" opportunities around new products and pack sizes.

Category Advisor

Commercial Baked Goods

Flowers Foods

Flowers Foods took a fresh look at both the category and shopper behavior by investing in research that generated actionable shopper insights and recommendations. It reinforced well-known core concepts, confirmed that shoppers prefer white and wheat bread be merchandised together in brand blocks, and suggested that improvements could be made in aisle flow and signage.

These insights led Flowers to propose merchandising recommendations that place greater importance on the placement of the loaf subcategory, which accounts for more than half of bread aisle profit, and has high purchase frequency and household penetration. One retailer has reset its entire chain to the recommendation, and another retailer is moving to a similar set.

Further, Flowers optimized retailers' shelf configuration and assortment at store level. Tapping loyalty card programs, SymphonyIRI data, trip mission studies and other sources, Flowers offered assessments and recommendations, and continues to offer a variety of additional retail solutions.

Flowers also recently expanded the Tastykake brand beyond its historic Northeast market area. Since Flowers acquired the brand in 2011, Tastykake has become the fastest-growing DSD brand in the South, up more than 50 percent over prior year.

Category Advisor

Convenient Wholesome Foods

The Kellogg Co.

The Kellogg Co's innovation in this segment has been a key contributor to its growth.

Generating retailer excitement is one of the latest extensions of Kellogg's healthy-halo Special K brand, Special K Pastry Crisps. Expanding on an already successful platform, Kellogg last June introduced two Pastry Crisps varieties to target a sweeter profile, dominating segment growth and innovation. As a unique and differentiated product, Pastry Crisps is meeting consumer demand for a versatile, portable and weight-conscious snack.

Kellogg continues to support customers across the country with executional plans that reflect the specific needs of local shoppers, and opportunities and financial headroom in their businesses, as well as customer marketing programs. Over the past year, the company has made significant investment in virtual technology used to rethink shelf design and potential flow innovation. Working with Vision Chain has helped support sharper forecasting and replenishment focus, and in partnership with The Futures Co., Kellogg recently finished a study that focused on the future of the breakfast occasion.

Category Captain

Crackers

The Kellogg Co.

In an incredibly mature category that generates more than $6 billion in sales, with 94 percent household reach, finding incremental pockets of demand to target becomes a challenge.

But over the last 12 months, the Kellogg Co. found a way to further ignite the cracker business through form-differentiated innovation. Its efforts resulted in increased dollars per buyer of more than $2 for the category and frequency increase, as well as volume-per-buyer increases.

Continued extension of its Special K brand created a new segment, cracker chips, which has helped add fuel to the category. Kellogg further boosted category growth by adding two new flavors to its Cheez-It line, Mozzarella and Colby.

In partnership with a few key customers, Kellogg studied snack-shopper immersion with the goal of longer-term innovation planning and focus. Further research has focused on category shopping fundamentals and understanding how combinations of displayed brands in the category, display locations and price points drive success.

Category Captain

Gum

Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co.

With a broad portfolio of marquee brands, Wrigley maintains its mastery of the gum category, teaming with retailers to focus on four areas key to growth: accessibility, innovation, shopper experience and in-store execution.

A key focus for Wrigley in 2012 has been self-checkout; the company has worked with retailers to test new front end merchandising concepts that affect the entire confectionery category. Wrigley also continues to develop a holistic cross-category approach with its partners at Mars, leading to in-aisle best practices and insights. Through growing its planogram database, Wrigley is identifying optimal space and positioning of segments to maximize category sales.

Among product trends, Wrigley has focused on a different gum pack type for every usage occasion, thinking vertically in terms of pack sizes and focusing on its power brands to deliver against consumer needs.

Major retailers describe Wrigley as a "valuable collaborative business partner" that delivers "strategic insights regarding the future possibilities of this category," operating in a way that shows the company is concerned "not only with their own business, but with the health of the total confectionery category."

Category Captain

Ethnic Foods

General Mills

General Mills' Old El Paso brand is a leader in the $4.2 billion Mexican food category. According to the company's proprietary Mastering the Meal Aisle Platform, which provides guidance on optimal space management and merchandising support across 20 meal aisle categories, the Mexican category is of premier strategic importance because of its size, growth forecast and shopper cross-purchase.

General Mills conducted an in-depth regional brand and segment analysis to understand the national and regional players, by segment, in 10 U.S. geographical regions, and leveraged its cutting-edge Virtual Store technology to present new shelf set concepts, sell-down impacts and package designs to consumers and retail customers.

In the realm of product innovation, Old El Paso's heat-and-serve Tortilla Stuffers line, launched in March 2011, delivers convenience, and the brand has also focused on improvement of its core products, especially in regard to bold flavors, textures and health attributes.

In 2011, General Mills commissioned custom research with Nielsen and The NPD Group for the "Explore Mexican" category growth story, which recommended optimizing distribution based on regional consumer consumption patterns; implementing an occasion-based shelf set that blocks segments within salsa and dips, taco meals, and ingredients/components, and places authentic items beside mainstream products to create a single destination; and boosting household consumption by promoting such meal solutions as "Taco Night." A top U.S. retailer that implemented the Explore Mexican concept saw category unit growth of 3 percent, with Old El Paso growth at a whopping 36 percent.

What's more, Old El Paso's 2012 "When You Gotta Have Mexican" TV ad campaign led to a double-digit sales lift over the previous year.

Category Captain

Meat Snacks

ConAgra Foods

With snacking representing a fifth of all eating occasions, ConAgra aims to help retailers cash in through the meat snack category with its new proprietary assortment tool, M.E.A.T. (Meat Snacks Efficient Assortment Tool).

This tool, developed with Nielsen, helped ConAgra launch its Slim Jim Dare product line, the category's first "extreme heat" product platform, to take advantage of category-beating growth in the hot-and-spicy segment. ConAgra's efforts have brought double-digit growth to a category that's outpacing most other snack categories.

M.E.A.T.'s model uses weekly store-level scanner data from stores across the country to determine optimal assortment based on the sales velocities and category incrementality of every item in the set. Many of ConAgra's retailer partners have commented favorably on the unique approach the company has brought to optimizing assortment in this category.

Category Captain

Nutritious Snacks

Abbott Nutrition

With Abbott Nutrition's help, a retailer in the Southeast set out to increase household penetration of nutritious snack users. Up until this point, the retailer was grouping nutritious snacks with two other distinct categories: weight management and sports nutrition.

Abbott, maker of ZonePerfect bars, saw a clear opportunity to attract new users. Its consumer data suggests that while most consumers are looking for healthy solutions, they often perceive nutritious snacks to be "complicated" and "not tasty."

Abbott's strategy focused on promotions, SKU optimization and product placement based on the latest decision hierarchy. The supplier leveraged its ZonePerfect 5-pack in a "two for $10" promotion to increase dollars spent per trip.

A major reset was executed at the beginning of November 2011. The new planogram featured optimized segmentation across the nutritious snack, weight control and sports nutrition categories. New SKU additions to nutritious snacks included the ZonePerfect Chocolate Mint 5-pack and ZonePerfect Strawberry Yogurt 5-pack.

So far, the optimized segmentation has fueled sales growth in all three segments, as well as the total lifestyle nutrition category. Sales for nutritious snacks are up 19 percent. In addition, the retailer was able to close a competitive gap by expanding on the nutritious snack category and effectively merchandising the three segments within the planogram.

Category Captain

Natural and Organic Foods

General Mills

In 2011, U.S. organic sales surpassed $30 billion for the first time, and General Mills' Small Planet Foods (SPF) division was a key contributor to that growth, with brands outpacing the 10.8 percent increase in the categories in which they compete, according to Nielsen and SPINS data.

Distribution initiatives and category planning undertaken by SPF with key customers led to distribution and volume gains across categories, aiding the division's core Cascadian Farm Organic Cereal (10 percent distribution point gain), Cascadian Farm Organic Grain Bars (20 percent distribution point gain) and Larabar nutrition bar (24 percent distribution point gain) SKUs.

Retailer category reviews employed turnkey category platforms focused on placement, distribution and productivity, and included category management consumer insight tools to understand consumer behavior. Additionally, aware that many consumers prefer natural and organic items incorporated into the mainstream aisle, SPF leveraged Nielsen annual store audit data to determine which conditions maximize total category in-aisle performance. The division evaluated sales rates in varying section sizes with different numbers of SKUs to recommend optimum section size and SKU variety.

This past year, one key retailer expanded Larabar multipacks into the main grain aisle and generated turns three times faster than other Larabar SKUs in the pharmacy location. As well as the multipacks, SPF is rolling out new cereal and granola bar items under its Cascadian Farm brand and additional Larabar varieties and sizes.

What's more, General Mills' recent acquisition of the successful Food Should Taste Good (FSTG) brand should accelerate future SPF growth by allowing the division to expand into the fast-growing natural/organic salty snack category. FSTG is poised for even stronger growth through distribution and innovation initiatives planned for next year.

Category Captain

Salty Snacks

PepsiCo

PepsiCo has demonstrated its mastery of the salty snack category through its ability to work closely with retailers to overcome unique challenges and drive growth.

Armed with a new category decomp process - a mix of traditional category management practices and new ways of looking at shopper makeup and category performance - PepsiCo put a plan in place to solve category decline at a Southeast retailer. The analysis proved useful nationwide, as it highlighted a decline driven by households skewing boomers and Hispanics. Direct marketing, tailored assortment and end cap merchandising boosted category growth nearly 7 percent.

Meanwhile, in Florida, PepsiCo launched "Project Empty Nester" to address category declines in the Sunshine State. Demographic studies led to changes in flavor mix and better-for-you offerings, displayed in targeted end caps in a test group of stores, where category sales grew seven times faster than elsewhere.

In the words of one retail partner, "Frito-Lay's efforts with this initiative are absolutely the right way to look at our business."

Category Captain

Toaster Pastries

The Kellogg Co.

With a brand that has become synonymous with toaster pastries, the Kellogg Co. continues to keep this $850 million category relevant and exciting.

Despite a category share exceeding 80 percent, Kellogg continues to innovate amid a highly competitive flavor environment. For example, the company introduced PopTarts Wildlicious Wild Strawberry to target tweens and deliver a fruitier, sweeter taste. Kellogg reports that this is the category's best-performing innovation in the past six years.

Kellogg supports customers with executional plans that reflect the specific needs of local shoppers, opportunities in their business, and customer marketing programs. The company has invested in virtual technology to rethink shelf design and potential innovation from a flow perspective, begun a data warehousing project aimed at improving the quality of business measurement and the quality of cross-category recommendations, and completed a study that focused on the future of the breakfast occasion.

Category Advisor

Salty Snacks

Snyder's-Lance

Since its merger, Snyder's-Lance has been able to leverage new resources and talents to partner with key retailers, which welcomed insights that allowed them to validate competitors' information and grow the $16.3 billion category.

The company launched 20 new items for the salty snack category. While two of them were developed for the convenience channel, they were also launched in grocery, where they have generated significant growth by attracting business to the front end.

By teaming with retailers to offer validation services previously not available and working with research partners at Nielsen, The NPD Group and Willard Bishop, Snyder's-Lance has become a contender in the salty snack category management arena.

FROZEN FOODS

Category Captain

Frozen Baked Goods

General Mills

Frozen baked goods is a relatively small category in the total frozen food department, but it provides an opportunity for meal solutions and high dollar ring per basket to retailers. It's this type of insight from General Mills that helps retailers make the most of the $1.2 billion business.

General Mills is bringing some excitement to the category with the launch of Pillsbury Freezer-to-Oven Honey Butter Biscuits, its first extension in the Freezer-to-Oven biscuit line since 2009. Meanwhile, the brand is continuing to provide value with a 20-count value-size offering.

The manufacturer's category management toolbox includes consumer segmentation, point-of-sale analytics, Willard Bishop ABC analysis, DemandTec, the Nielsen Shelf Audit Tool, Demand Transfer, consumer research and virtual store technology. Additionally, General Mills uses its key frozen aisle adjacencies to promote cross-purchasing and maximize frozen aisle sales.

Over the past year, General Mills' efforts helped grow the category by 1 percent. In addition to moderate dollar growth, frozen baked goods has increased loyalty, buy rate and purchase size among consumers.

Category Captain

Frozen Breakfast

General Mills

General Mills helped drive sales in the $2.6 billion frozen breakfast category, thanks to product innovation and its category management expertise. Its work helped grow sales by nearly $19 million versus last year, representing 14 percent of total category growth.

In the past year Pillsbury introduced a limited-edition flavor: Chocolate Strawberry Toaster Strudel. The new rotational item, which capitalized on the trend of chocolate as a breakfast flavor, has helped drive impulse purchases. The company also launched a Value-Size Apple Strudel.

In addition to its strong marketing efforts via TV, digital and more, Pillsbury is a participant in the "Box Tops for Education" program, which also helps enhance its brand image and bring in new users to the category.

General Mills' category management expertise - including its use of frozen aisle adjacencies, price optimization work with DemandTec, and Nielsen assortment studies - is the icing on the strudel, so to speak.

Category Advisor

Frozen Baked Goods

ConAgra Foods

The frozen dessert pie segment had been stagnant, and in some cases declining, in the previous three holiday seasons. ConAgra's Marie Callender/Claim Jumper Pies team helped turn things around with expanded distribution, quality merchandising on key weeks and an optimal price point. The company's efforts helped grow dollar sales 7 percent in the category in the 13 weeks ending Jan. 1, 2012.

With 43 percent of dollar sales done in the last few months of the year, frozen dessert pies is a highly seasonal business. Shoppers are looking for high-quality pies that they'll feel proud to serve. The Marie Callender's/Claim Jumper brand speaks directly to that need.

ConAgra advised its retail partners to increase their focus on the premium pie brands in the three main weeks of the holiday season. Economy pies still had an important role to play, however. ConAgra also suggested an emphasis on specific pie flavors for different holidays: fruit and seasonal at Thanksgiving, and fruit and cream at Christmas.

Despite a struggling economy, consumers were willing to pay more for a premium pie - so while buyers bought the same number of pies, they spent 14 percent more this season.

Category Captain

Frozen Entrees

General Mills

Frozen prepared foods is the largest category in frozen foods, generating more than $13.6 billion in annual dollar sales. General Mills, maker of Wanchai Ferry and Macaroni Grill branded entrees, is helping lead profitable growth in multi-serve entrees (an important subcategory of frozen prepared foods) through new product introductions, strong brand-building support and a comprehensive consumer support plan. Its brands cover two popular types of cuisine: Italian and Asian.

Over the past two years, frozen prepared foods has grown 4.5 percent, in line with total frozens. General Mills' portfolio has developed into a business of more than $71 million in sales, up 28 percent.

The Asian cuisine segment has dramatically increased over the same time period, now accounting for a 29 percent dollar share. Riding on that trend, Wanchai Ferry has expanded its offerings with Chicken Fried Rice, a new item targeting consumers in search of a side dish or snack.

To help drive traffic to the multi-serve entree category, General Mills is executing a digital and in-store campaign around Mac Grill and Wanchai Ferry. In addition to the FSIs and IRCs, packages will be included in the "Box Tops for Education" program.

Meanwhile, the company continues to bring a full suite of tools, capabilities and consumer insights to its retail customers. Its programs include best-in-class shelving principles via a partnership with Nielsen; a focus on the right items, thanks to an analysis of Demand Transfer and Nielsen assortment studies; and consumer-driven insights gained from Shopper 360 and Share of Wallet reports.

Category Captain

Frozen Meat Substitutes

The Kellogg Co.

In a frozen food business that's slightly declining, frozen meat substitutes is one of the brightest areas of the department for grocers across the country. In 2011, retailers saw the category grow by 3.9 percent in total top-line sales.

Kellogg's Morningstar Farms brand delivered almost 20 percent of the added growth dollars. Into 2012 year-to-date, the total category business continues to grow at a rate of 4 percent.

Morningstar Farms' introduction of Value Packs and Veggie Dogs has driven more than 28 percent of the total growth for the entire frozen meat substitute category. In addition, the brand has grown household penetration by nearly a full point over the past two years, in part because of the expanded dayparts that the business is playing to by way of items like Veggie Dogs that hit different need areas. The new Morningstar Farms SKU launches have the highest repeat purchase rates of any brand in frozen meat substitutes over the last 52 weeks, according to Kellogg.

Kellogg continues to support a number of retail customers across the country with plans that reflect the specific needs of local shoppers, opportunities/financial headroom in the business, and customer marketing programs.

In the growing area of virtual technology, Kellogg made significant investment in tools over the last 52 weeks, most of which were focused on better serving the needs of its most important retail customers and their strategies.

Category Captain

Frozen Fruit & Smoothies

General Mills

General Mills is the leading player in the frozen smoothie segment with its Yoplait Smoothie brand. The company has been working to grow the entire frozen fruit/smoothie category, however, with new product launches and category management tools. Thanks to its efforts, the $799 million category has grown 13 percent over the past year.

Moreover, while the frozen fruit/smoothie category has seen relatively flat sales in recent years, Yoplait Smoothie has given a boost to category sales, as 60 percent of Yoplait Smoothie buyers are new to the category.

New smoothie flavors introduced this past summer include Yoplait Strawberry Banana and Mixed Berry made with Greek yogurt. The new items contain more protein and address the breakfast eating occasion, a new area of growth for the category.

The Yoplait brand team continues to increase its consumer support efforts by investing in radio, digital, coupons, sampling, in-store point-of-sale advertising and media promotions with high-profile platforms such as "Box Tops for Education" and the "Biggest Loser" TV series.

Last but not least, General Mills offers its retail partners invaluable tools, including best-in-class shelving principles, a focus on the right items, and consumer-driven insights.

Category Captain

Frozen Pizza

General Mills

Frozen pizza is an "anchor" category in the frozen department, as it has high penetration, high purchase frequency and strong incrementality. National brands, such as General Mills' Totino's, comprise the majority of dollar sales in the category.

Retailers relied heavily on category management in the past year to help grow the category, as frozen pizza trips have continued to decline and penetration is down 3 percent. On the bright side, frozen pizza dollars per trip are up 18 cents to $6.73. This increase in spending was driven by pricing in the category, as units per trip were flat versus a year ago.

General Mills helped its retail partners by offering a stable of insights during a turbulent time and helping to provide value for consumers in an increasingly competitive environment.

Over the past two years, General Mills has diagnosed the extent of the quick-serve restaurant (QSR) impact on frozen pizza. The company provided insights on consumer purchasing trends, focusing on the growing value segment, while offering best practice techniques to fix the mix and ensure optimal distribution is on the shelf.

As General Mills defines the category, there are four subcategories. The value subcategory, which includes Totino's Party Pizza, is the only one that has grown dollar volume over the past 52 weeks. Totino's, representing nearly 87 percent of the subcategory, is up 2.4 points.

General Mills has focused on helping retailers optimize their pizza distribution, leveraging growth segments that bring new buyers to the category.

Meanwhile, the company has created a three-step process to help retailers ensure they carry the most productive assortment to drive category growth. This process consists of understanding regional needs, optimizing the shelf and stocking the most incremental SKUs.

On the consumer front, General Mills created advertisements centered on value. From radio clips that highlighted the Totino's brand's value versus delivery, to creating a "Mom Up" digital stock-up campaign reminding mothers always to have Totino's Party Pizza on hand for their kids, Totino's re-established its position as the value pizza from QSR.

Category Captain

Frozen Snacks

General Mills

The $4.5 billion frozen snack mega-category comprises three subcategories - sandwiches, hot snacks and handheld meals - and many key brands, among them General Mills' Totino's hot snacks, the No. 1 brand in its subcategory in both dollar sales and unit sales. The brand also led overall category growth this year, increasing sales by 3 percent versus last year, while boosting its own household penetration by 6 percent, according to Nielsen.

General Mills provided best-in-class category management insights to spur frozen snack growth. By aligning categories that promote cross-purchases and separating high-penetration categories, retailers could create a push-pull effect through the aisle, leveraging impulse purchases as consumers pass lower-penetration categories. Additionally, General Mills' Virtual Store technology helped retailers' growth.

The company also used Demand Transfer and Nielsen assortment studies to ensure that current and proposed distribution would maximize incrementality and sales.

Further, as Totino's has the highest hot snack share among the growing Hispanic population, the brand has integrated key Hispanic consumer insights into its overall consumer plan.

Category Captain

Frozen Waffles

The Kellogg Co.

Last year, while total top-line frozen breakfast sales grew by 8.5 percent, according to Nielsen, the Kellogg Co.'s Eggo Waffles brand grew at a rate of nearly three times that, delivering almost half of the added growth dollars for the category, and this trend has continued into 2012.

Kellogg made a significant investment in such tools as virtual technology that helped inform some of the new recommendations it made for customers regarding frozen breakfast flow and optimal placement of key brands. Using this technology, a Kellogg field team began a data-warehousing project for the company's second-largest U.S. retail customer, aimed at improving the quality of not only business measurement, but also of the local recommendations made across categories, including frozen breakfast. The technology additionally helped support sharper forecasting and replenishment focus.

The company invested in insights and specialty items, among them a test to assess the impact of an Eggo promotion at a retail partner, with the goal of being able to target key shoppers via specific promotional vehicles; a successful micro-clustering initiative to get inside areas of the country with projected headroom for growth, to accelerate the frozen breakfast category at a key retail customer; and the rollout of a target seasonal specialty flavor, Pumpkin Spice, which Kellogg deemed a "raging success."

Further, the Eggo Wafflers line has been responsible for nearly 50 percent of the added growth dollars for the brand's business and continues to outperform hurdle rates for retailers.

Category Advisor

Frozen Vegetables

General Mills

General Mills' iconic Green Giant brand is leading profitable growth in the $3.3 billion frozen vegetables category through innovative new items, strong brand-building support and category strategies that help retailers drive sales and profits. With a high household penetration rate of 81 percent and frequent consumer trips, frozen vegetables is a lead frozen category and critical to the department's success.

A 3,000-store annual audit conducted in partnership with Nielsen identified optimal brand adjacencies for frozen vegetables, along with recommendations on space allocation by such key segments as steam, sauce, form and vegetable type. The insights informed retailers of quantifiable opportunities and actionable go-to-market strategies, benefiting not just their business, but also overall category health.

General Mills additionally leveraged Demand Transfer and Nielsen assortment studies, which resulted in optimized distribution and a competitive advantage for retailers to grow the category.

Further, two key insights reports enabled the company to pinpoint account-specific opportunities to drive loyalty, increase trips and retain more dollars.

In the realm of innovation, the recently introduced Green Giant Seasoned Steamers line is positioned to accelerate category growth through capitalizing on new usage occasions. Green Giant also plans to expand consumption by providing brand-loyal shoppers with new 25-ounce packaging, with the aim of driving category growth by capitalizing on the incrementality of the non-steamed plain bag segment and attracting new consumers to the category.

Category Captain

Ice Cream and Novelties

Unilever

Unilever has brought meaningful innovation to the packaged ice cream segment of the $9 billion ice cream category in 2012 with exciting new brand partnerships, as well as being smartly on trend with Greek frozen yogurt. Shoppers have reacted positively to the company's new items, with a sales volume contribution of almost $30 million.

On the frozen novelty side of the aisle, Unilever's Popsicle brand introduced Sour Patch Kids, which became the No. 1 innovation in the segment, thanks to its having the same taste appeal as the well-known candy brand. Right behind it in popularity this year was the company's Good Humor Mounds Ice Cream Bar.

Also launched in 2012 was Popsicle YoSicle, a combination of Popsicle and yogurt in various flavors and shapes. The item has brought more affluent buyers to the category, resulting in higher basket rings, and continues to gain momentum, prompting Unilever to consider extending Popsicle season into after-school occasions with the Yosicle product line.

Unilever's global brand Magnum experienced continued strong momentum in its second year in the United States, with the introduction of various SKUs that have grown the superpremium frozen novelty segment.

HEALTH, BEAUTY & WELLNESS

Category Captain

Analgesics

Bayer Consumer Care

Despite being one of the largest and highest-penetration categories within OTC medications, analgesics has experienced tremendous disruptions over the past two years, including a series of product recalls.

In a bid to stabilize the category, Bayer conducted a comprehensive analysis to identify potential assortment and shelving solutions. The analysis used Edgewood Consulting Group's proprietary ShoppersEdge database to track the shopping dynamics of more than 500,000 households, based on loyalty card data, since the recalls. Bayer's research led to a new variety duplication model identifying the optimal product mix. In addition, the company developed a distinctive shelf construct to meet new shopper behaviors.

Bayer introduced Bayer Advanced Aspirin, which has generated more than $25 million in sales - the largest sales of any new item introduced in the category over the past three years.

Toward long-term category growth, Bayer introduced in-store heart health solution centers. After a successful test at 100 matched stores, one major retailer expanded the sets to its entire chain later that year.

These efforts allowed category volume to remain flat in 2011, despite the continued absence of most items from the category's largest brand, Tylenol. In addition, Bayer outperformed competition and the category in 2011, with Bayer Aspirin dollar sales up 11.7 percent and Aleve dollar sales up 5.2 percent, according to SymphonyIRI.

GROCERY - NONFOODS

Category Captain

Pet Care

Freshpet

With its grocery sales up 54.5 percent from a year ago, Freshpet is currently driving category growth as the No. 1 fastest-growing dog food brand in the United States, according to SymphonyIRI. This is the result of new distribution, effective television advertising and innovative products.

Leveraging the trends of healthier eating and the humanization of pets, Freshpet is attracting new high-profit pet-owning households to the grocery pet aisle, while encouraging existing ones to return more often.

The company has further grown category dollars and profits by providing a smaller package size and perishable product that increase shopper frequency, having a higher price point that trades consumers up, and offering retailers a category-leading profit margin of 28 percent.

Freshpet plans to keep increasing pet aisle productivity through more product innovation, including a line of frozen dog food, and boosting consumer awareness by launching the next phase of its "Protest" campaign, which highlights Freshpet's unique benefit of fresh all-natural dog food.

SymphonyIRI found that stores selling Freshpet experience significantly higher pet food sales growth than stores that don't carry the company's products.

Category Captain

Foot Care

Merck Consumer Care

Athough it's a $1 billion-plus category, until recently, foot care was usually described as mature, with limited growth in terms of dollar sales and household penetration. That all changed in late 2011 and 2012, when Merck Consumer Care's Dr. Scholl's brand committed to reinventing the category.

To that end, buoyed by shopper research to determine the role foot care plays in the overarching health-and-wellness movement and to identify specific opportunities for transformation of the category, Dr. Scholl's came up with new positioning, communication and merchandising strategies as part of a fully integrated effort empowering consumers to actively pursue life's possibilities by first taking care of their feet.

Merck's category leadership and sales strategy team focused on a few key strategies, among them getting consumers to focus on benefits, not just functionality, when shopping for foot care products, and new assortment, shelving and education initiatives. The company encouraged each retailer to think about foot care differently, and merchandise accordingly.

Year to date, the once mature category is up 8 percent, with growth being driven across various segments, including insoles and devices, foot therapy, and odor wetness, according to SymphonyIRI.

Category Advisor

Sports Nutritionals

Abbott Nutrition

Abbott Nutrition recently worked with a retailer in the Northeast to build the sports nutrition segment, which is an important part of the overall lifestyle nutrition category. The retailer had traditionally merchandised sports nutrition and the other four segments of the category separately throughout the store.

Abbott, maker of the EAS brand, has learned through its consumer research that sports nutrition consumers often complain that they can't find the right variety and flavor assortment. Many aren't loyal to one store, and they feel overwhelmed by the number of products and brands in the stores they visit. In fact, shoppers often walk away not knowing exactly what they're purchasing, because of the lack of education at the shelf.

Abbott decided to invest further in consumer research this year, using an Edgewood Consulting Group study, IRI Market Structure, Nielsen AssortMan SKU Incrementality and Sorenson In-store Shopper Intercepts.

Armed with its new insights, Abbott created a 24-foot planogram to create an easier shopping experience for the sports nutrition and nutritious snack consumer. In addition, the company introduced new products and shelf signage, and also provided shelf strips for easier shopping.

While its work is still in the early stages, Abbott has seen an initial net percent increase of 22.5 percent for total sports nutrition and nutritious snacks at the retailer's stores.

Category Captain

Hair Care

Unilever

Within the daily hair care category, Unilever's Nexxus was the No. 1 growth brand within the salon segment in 2011, contributing $21 million in absolute dollar growth to the category, according to Nielsen.

Driving Nexxus' success in 2011 was the launch of Salon Hair Care ProMend, a first-to-market split-end system. First launched as a wash-and-care line, the line recently expanded to include four styling products. During its launch year, ProMend grew the category as well as trading up existing hair care buyers to the more profitable salon segment. At one retailer, the line brought in 9 percent of new category buyers in its first 26 weeks, and also increased category buyers' spending by 29 percent.

To encourage trial and awareness, ProMend employed several education vehicles. Tactics included special packs, targeted sampling, end cap TV, television and print support, social media, and at-shelf communication. Additionally, high-quality displays allowed for secondary locations to further boost the brand's awareness and visibility. Yet another element in the line's success was Nexxus' leverage of its relationship with celebrity stylist Kevin Mancuso, who, as the brand's creative director, co-creates all of its innovations. In 2012, retailers have added incremental ProMend SKUs as the line expands.

At the aforementioned grocer, Nexxus was among the top five fastest-growing brands within hair care in 2011, and ProMend was among the top 14 fastest-growing hair care sub-brands during its launch year, contributing $0.9 million, according to Nielsen.

Category Captain

Skin/Sun Care

Merck Consumer Care

Merck Consumer Care, maker of Coppertone, determined to grow the large sun care category, which delivers more than $1.3 billion in annual sales, even further. New consumer segmentation research ultimately defined several core consumer targets. A proprietary study assessed which retailers were best meeting the needs of these different groups, identified the profiles for the various types of shoppers and how their shopping behavior differed, and outlined what category suppliers and retailers could do to win with each group. From these findings, Merck developed a series of new products.

Finally, in partnership with Edgewood Consulting Group, Merck created a new go-to-market strategy with account-specific assortment, shelving, signage/education and promotion recommendations that drove the category up again in 2011 and in the first half of 2012.

As a result of Coppertone-led key segment growth and implementation of initiatives that educate shoppers on the importance of sun care and then make it easier for them to find the best product to meet their needs in the store, for the period ending July 15, sun care has grown 6.6 percent in dollar sales, according to SymphonyIRI. Dollar growth stemmed primarily from growth in the active, specialty sun, kid and baby segments, in all of which Coppertone is a major player.

Category Advisor

Bayer Consumer Care

Within the broader macro-trend of health and wellness, the nutritionals category has experienced continued strong growth for several consecutive years, despite a challenging economic environment and the fact that the direct effect of most category products can't be seen by the consumer.

In addition to providing critical shopper and consumer insights, Bayer developed an innovative solution detailing how retailers could better manage both individual categories and capture the broader health-and-wellness opportunity, which included leveraging health state regimens such as heart health, diabetes and weight management.

Along with this wider long-term initiative, Bayer introduced a portfolio approach to managing the category on a more tactical basis. Further research found that adult multivitamins continue to be used even as consumers branch out to other nutritional segments. Bayer thus advised retailers that adult multivitamins should be leveraged in all category management tactics to support the overall category.

This approach helped generate some immediate positive results, particularly in the adult multivitamin segment, where 2011 dollar sales across the multioutlet channel were up 2.8 percent, according to SymphonyIRI. Bayer's One A Day line outperformed this trend, growing 4 percent during the same time period.

Additionally, Bayer is working closely with several retailers to create and test a range of in-store and out-of-store solutions.

Category Captain

Vitamins/Supplements

Pharmavite

For the 52 weeks ending Aug. 4, at retailers where Pharmavite is the category advisor, vitamin category dollar sales have grown 6.5 percent, versus 4.3 percent at those retailers where the company doesn't serve as advisor.

Following consumer research, Pharmavite developed new products to meet a desire for more sensory excitement in terms of flavor, smell, texture and color, and additionally worked with retailers to create a clearly defined gummi section within a 400- to 600-SKU vitamin planogram in which all gummi delivery-form products are shelved together to simplify the shopping experience.

Pharmavite further found that a top consumer issue regarding vitamins is being able to swallow them comfortably. In response, the company launched Nature Made Fish Oil Pearls and Calcium Petites in a significantly smaller liquid soft gel, and a reduced-size soft gel multivitamin line.

The company also used attitudinal shopper insights that enabled Pharmavite to ask highly customized questions that could yield actionable retail insights facilitating the development of consumer-based strategies. In 2012, Pharmavite found that while overall, the purchase of vitamins is highly planned, as are such attributes as brand, type, strength and delivery form, the number of pills per bottle is a highly impulsive attribute that's often decided at the shelf. Based on this knowledge, Pharmavite collaborated with retailers on ad and display programs featuring larger-size (150-count and up) products to drive increases in the overall transaction rate per buyer and improve consumers' daily vitamin intake compliance.

Category Advisor

U.S. Nutrition

As a market leader in the U.S. vitamin and sports nutrition supplement market with annual sales of more than $1.2 billion, US Nutrition (USN) relies on deep consumer insights and continual product innovation to keep the category vibrant.

Consumer focus groups and survey research, as well as recognition of key category drivers in the marketplace, led to the launch of a Nature's Bounty line extension, Optimal Solutions, which consists of seven women's health solutions. The trend for items promoting women's health has outpaced total category trends, causing several of USN's retail partners to create a dedicated section highlighting such items.

By consistently monitoring marketplace trends and the competitive landscape, the company saw the need to enter the healthy lifestyle arena, the largest-growing segment of the diet and sports nutrition category. Good 'n Natural, a gluten- and dairy-free, low-sugar, vegan whole-food fruit, nut and seed bar made with natural and organic ingredients, has become a hot seller, gaining distribution at top retail chains.

The company worked with one retail partner to realize double-digit growth for both USN and the overall category, through the development of four core initiatives: vitamin reinvention through testing and implementation; consumer insights that resulted in significant increases in households, dollars per household and shopping visits; new item analysis to determine the SKUs that are engaging new households, driving trial and seeing the highest repeat rates, to help shape assortment decisions; and private label insights.

At another retail partner, USN's award-winning efforts yielded results that contributed to double-digit category growth - more than twice that of the national marketplace.

Category Advisor

Chilled Juices

PepsiCo

It isn't often that a category is a perfect match with the core shopper at a retailer. This is the case with the superpremium juice category, on which PepsiCo and a national retailer partnered in an effort to better understand the shopper and to optimize category growth. The goal was to understand what roles each of the four Ps (price, promotion, placement and product) played with the superpremium juice shopper.

Data collection was supplemented by more formal marketing research to identify the best price points, how to increase household penetration, and how to continue growing the category and gain market share. Through these efforts, PepsiCo reworked the space to include an additional shelf, allowing an increased breadth of assortment. On this shelf, the retailer showcases new products multiple times per year to keep the assortment fresh and exciting.

Since the reworking, the retailer is outpacing the rest of the market with double-digit growth, and household penetration among the existing shopper base also rose.

PERIMETER - DAIRY

Category Captain

Chilled Juices

The Coca-Cola Co.

Retailer loyalty card systems typically provide transaction-level data via a Web-based tool. In shopper insights and category management, Coca-Cola works with multiple national retailers and their loyalty card data to perform many types of shopper and household analyses. Coke's learnings yield results that provide clarity for in-outlet merchandising (displays, POGs) that drive incremental volume for the category.

Accomplishing its strategic goals requires Coke to analyze information through a shopper lens, understanding beverage category and total store opportunities from the shopper's perspective. Coke's partnership with many national retail customers in analyzing and applying loyalty card data makes it possible to drive actionable solutions.

Using available syndicated and shopper card data, Coke dissected the category, enabling focus against those key business drivers creating category growth headwinds. Syndicated insights gave Coke the direction as to where leakage was occurring, but card data was critical to understanding what specific segment and pack size were driving change.

Research and study work resulted in identifying actionable short-term tactics to address a change in promotional pricing strategies, share gain opportunities on the profitable single-serve juice and drink SKUs, and better pre- and during-shopping communication of category innovation.

Actions to date have resulted in measurable category growth for the retailer, with increases in total category, large and small sizes, and both national and private label brands.

Category Captain

Eggs

Eggland's Best

Specialty eggs is a growing segment within the overall egg category, and Eggland's Best is leading the way by taking the long view and helping its retail partners elevate the entire category.

In a partnership with a major Western regional retailer, Eggland's Best provided the retailer with a SymphonyIRI-based total informational resources data package, delivering a monthly in-depth summary of timely category sales trend data and insight analysis of the egg brands in the category, plus a weekly trend analyzer.

Results of this partnership have been impressive: double-digit increases in dollars and units sold for the total shell egg category (versus a rest of the market in decline), private label and branded products, and additional incremental revenue with the launch of Eggland's Best Hard-cooked Peeled and Extra Large eggs.

All of this detailed reporting has allowed the retailer to keep track of annual trends, as well as gear up to match solid prior-year promotions and develop an annualized promotional calendar.

Category Captain

Yogurt

General Mills

General Mills continues to use consumer insights, marketing, brand building and innovation to drive sales in the $7 billion yogurt category.

Last March, General Mills released "Maximize Yogurt," a category growth story that offered shopper insights while building on key messages of growth, expansion and segment importance. These insights identified who consumers are, how yogurt fits into their daily lives and how they make decisions at the shelf.

Across its entire brand portfolio, Yoplait launched new packaging and a refreshed logo that General Mills says demonstrates improved "find-ability" on the shelf. The brand's 90-calorie Yoplait Light is endorsed by Weight Watchers, with points displayed on the packaging. Other product innovations: Greek yogurt, Fruplait 4-packs and Simplait, an all-natural yogurt made with just six ingredients. Also joining the portfolio are the all-natural Mountain High brand and two lines of the Canadian brand Liberte, Greek and Mediterranee.

The yogurt category is leading dairy aisle growth, and General Mills is leading the yogurt category through innovation and consumer focus.

Category Captain

Refrigerated Baked Goods

General Mills

This year, Pillsbury conducted the category's first ever path-to-purchase study to gain a greater understanding of shopping behavior. The results led to the creation of the category growth story "Re-Fresh Dough," which indicated significant growth is possible by focusing on three key areas: holidays, everyday and shopping experience.

Pillsbury dollar growth in the biscuit, sweet breakfast and pie crust segments contributed to total category dollar volume growth, in addition to a boost in overall household penetration.

As part of its holiday focus, Pillsbury is increasing TV and digital presence to stress the importance and "high-stakes" nature of the holiday meal for families, with a new campaign that focuses on inspiring consumers to make what they love at the holidays.

Additionally, the brand is working toward eliminating trans fats from products and reducing sodium by 20 percent, to address the top reason for lapsed category users: health concerns. Pillsbury also recently introduced an Artisan Pizza Crust with Whole Grain.

General Mills continues to provide category leadership by contributing to overall growth, incremental innovation, product differentiation, dynamic marketing and solution-based thought leadership.

PERIMETER - DELI

Category Captain

Deli - Prepared Foods

Tyson Foods Inc.

This year, Tyson's deli team created innovative social media for consumers, tools and support for retailers, and product lines that support the needs and desires of both. In addition, the company has integrated its resources in a targeted fashion to raise awareness and increase usage occasions in the category, to drive incremental sales for retailers.

Using its understanding of the category and its drivers, Tyson has created two online initiatives to support the product decision-making process for both retailers and consumers. These two initiatives are incorporated with the company's product innovation and in-store efforts to build a greater deli category.

To enhance last year's launch of DeliAnytime.com, Tyson deli launched the Deli Meal Blog with live mom blogger Lisa, to provide recipes, tips and ideas for maximizing deli purchases; she also provides reviews of consumer-uploaded recipes using Tyson Deli products. The company also leverages its online consumer interaction vehicles to enhance in-store category promotions. Additionally, TysonDeli.com helps retailers learn about product innovations that serve the consumer's need for convenience and quality, and retailers' need for low labor and shrink.

Tyson Deli leads the category in providing unique solutions and integrated communication tactics both in and outside the store.

VARIABLE/FIXED-WEIGHT MEAT

Category Captain

Deli Meat

Dietz & Watson

Dietz & Watson (D&W) builds its category leadership by providing retailer partners with category reviews to highlight key opportunity areas for underperforming proteins and develop plans to capture that market share.

Conducting flavor-by-segment analyses to ensure correct assortments are in place, D&W works with Nielsen Spectra to create profiles for each retailer partner to match product assortment down to store level. This also fuels a better understanding of consumer preferences and assists in controlling shrink by removing poor-performing items. This year, the company worked with Nielsen Perishables Group to develop a brand-neutral tool that helps retailers more effectively understand and plan deli meat promotions based on past performance.

Among its projects to maximize assortment, D&W helped a major Southern retailer boost its year-over-year sales growth across total deli bulk meat during the first half of this year.

In today's dynamic retail environment, Dietz & Watson takes a specialized category management approach in each market to cater to the needs of targeted consumers, tailoring assortments, display size and promotional strategies to best fit with a store's shoppers.

Category Co-Captain

Bananas

Chiquita

Chiquita works with its retail customers year-round to conduct category reviews that assess the performance of bananas at the retailer compared with its competitive market, identify opportunities for growth, build strategies to capitalize on those opportunities and measure results against those goals. To optimize retailer revenue, Chiquita also collaborates with retailer customers to provide pricing, promotion and assortment recommendations.

In one example, Chiquita worked with a regional chain on an assortment test to determine the appropriate mix of ripe and green bananas by store. Produce managers were given the opportunity to order their own mix of ripe and green coded bananas to understand whether category sales increased in stores that ordered the pre-determined mix as defined by the retailer's internal system. Test stores outperformed control stores by 9.8 percentage points in dollar trends and three percentage points in volume trends.

In addition to its regular category reviews with retailers, Chiquita supports category sales by reaching out to consumers inside and outside the store. This year, Chiquita implemented two primary initiatives that brought consumers to the category and built shopper engagement for retailers: the "Chiquita Banana Command Post" and the "Chiquita FanFun Initiative."

Participating retailers in the FanFun program experienced banana category growth during June and July 2012, compared with April and May 2012, while dollars and volume increased 7.3 percent and 6.8 percent, respectively.

VARIABLE/FIXED-WEIGHT PRODUCE

Category Advisor

Avocados

Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A. Inc.

Category management has become an integral part of the way Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A. Inc. supports its key customers. The company takes a holistic approach that incorporates quantitative analytical tools, demographic information, merchandising and promotional support.

In 2011, a major Midwestern regional retailer decided to change and revitalize its avocado program. When Del Monte assumed the business, its principal goals were to increase sales and ensure optimal product distribution.

FreshLook Marketing syndicated data was used to compare the retailer's avocado sales trends with those of the surrounding market. Market Track Ad Data reports were then run to periodically review the retailer's ad activity throughout the year.

Finally, Spectra data was used to determine the retailer's potential avocado sales and aid in determining display space and initial product distribution. To ensure product quality, information was distributed to all stores regarding best handling and merchandising practices, and a Del Monte sales merchandiser visited the market to gain a perspective of the business from the field.

The exercise turned out a few positive results: 100 percent distribution has been achieved and maintained throughout this program, business has grown steadily, and shipments to the stores have increased nearly 30 percent during the past five months.

Category Co-Captain

Bananas

Del Monte Fresh Produce

Banana sales at a major regional retailer underperformed for the 2011 fiscal year by more than three percentage points, compared with the retailer's total produce department. Del Monte Fresh Produce stepped in to help turn the business around.

Del Monte performed an in-depth analysis of the retailer's shipments and POS scan and shrink data, to measure past performance, and identify problem stores and other areas of opportunity.

The retailer's produce management team used this analysis and information to help formulate and put into action a sales and merchandising plan for its stores, which included a pricing and promotional strategy. Periodic syndicated data sales reviews and pricing analyses were provided to the retailer by the Del Monte category manager to help track progress versus the market and region.

In an effort to ensure that banana best handling practices were being followed, to help keep the shrink rate to a minimum, and to provide guidance for employing the best in-store merchandising and display techniques, a Del Monte sales merchandiser paid periodic visits to several key retailer stores during the year.

The retailer's banana category sales experienced a complete turnaround, improving to the point that they outperformed total produce department sales by more than two percentage points. Moreover, the retailer's overall shrink rate decreased by nearly 2 percent versus 2011.

Category Captain

Fresh-Cut Fruit

Del Monte Fresh Produce

A Midwest retailer's fresh-cut fruit sales were seriously lagging versus 2011, so the company decided to conduct a category overhaul with the help of Del Monte Fresh Produce.

The Del Monte category manager conducted an ongoing analysis of the retailer's sales and shrink data, which helped to identify slow-selling items, highest- and lowest-performing stores, and, with respect to shrink, both problem SKUs and stores.

Del Monte's category manager used syndicated data to create item rankings for the market, which ensured the best mix of new and existing products.

The Del Monte field merchandiser conducted periodic audits of these stores to ensure that best handling practices were being followed, and to provide guidance on merchandising techniques. The category manager employed Spectra to identify stores with the greatest Del Monte Fresh Cut sales potential to help maintain focus on building up the program or target problem stores.

This team approach has resulted in a successful new program that has seen steady dollar and unit sales increases over the retailer's last eight periods. During the past five months in particular, shipments to the stores have increased nearly 30 percent compared with the first five-month period since the program's inception. Category comp-store dollar and unit sales during this time frame versus 2011 were up 9.4 percent and 7.3 percent, respectively. Just as importantly, shrink improved for this same period, as the rate decreased by 6 percent.

Category Captain

Convenience Vegetables

Mann Packing Co.

In 2012 Mann Packing Co. "returned to the basics" in its category management program. The fresh produce supplier focused on driving its core convenience vegetables business: the side dish traditional segment.

By focusing on consumer opportunities, Mann expanded its No. 1 item - Stringless Sugar Snap Peas - by aligning its insights with its packing innovation. As snacking is the main usage occasion for Sugar Snap Peas, Mann launched a new 15-ounce size to serve as a "go-between" offering (it already offered 8- and 32-ounce sizes).

When Mann filled this gap, its test retailer's sales increased more than 40 percent, with minimal cannibalization from either the 8- or 32-ounce volumes.

In the meantime, Mann continues to team with retailers to drive sales. Using scan sales details, the company provides a balanced promotional plan that supports feature ads and TPR events, aligning peak growing production with peak consumer demand. Mann also works closely with Nielsen-Perishables Group to provide proprietary price elasticity modeling that maximizes promotions. Additionally, the company supports the category with shopper studies that assist in produce placement, pricing, promotion, distribution and assortment decisions.

Mann has recently increased its overall media outreach with two successful campaigns: "Power to the Pea" and "Skip the Chips." The campaigns incorporate print and social media in conjunction with grass-roots events.

Category Captain

Grapes

Sunlight International Sales

In 2012, Sunlight International Inc., a packer and shipper of premium California table grapes, put its Pretty Lady for the Summer brand in customized standup recyclable pouches that sported decorative graphics printed on clear material, complementing the grapes' quality. Additionally, the grab-and-go carrying handle, colander feature and strong zip-lock seal provided functionality. By offering superior product in convenient, innovative packaging, Sunlight, the marketing and sales arm of JP Dulcich and Sons, garnered higher demand, loyalty and return business for retailers.

Further, the company created product differentiation in the produce aisle with its summer merchandising program. Stores that deployed the program received positive customer feedback, sales increased and far less shrink was realized throughout, according to Sunlight.

The Pretty Lady for the Summer campaign provided a strong lead-in for Sunlight's Harvest Hobgoblin brand in the fall. For example, grapes were among the top seven items sold during one week at one retail partner.

Another retail customer selling Pretty Lady grapes reported average sales per location for the past 27 weeks of $2,397 per week, up from $1,775 in 2010, for a 25.9 percent increase.

Category Co-Captain

Packaged Salads

Dole Fresh Vegetables

As Dole continues to undergo structural and cultural change within its organization, its focus is on innovation. Category development continues to lead and drive change, focusing the company on three key pillars for success: retailer-/shopper-driven studies and insights, product innovation, and profit maximization through shrink and profit analysis.

Dole recently instituted several studies that are national in scope, but actionable at the individual account level. In 2012, Dole's category development department focused on optimizing the entire value-added cooler via its Produce Cooler Study. Employing individual-store/SKU data from its retail partners, Dole recommended new planograms across all categories to optimize the cooler. Results from the 24-week process have exceeded revenue and profit targets, including up to a 7 percent sales and 12 percent increase in profitability for retailers.

Meanwhile, Dole's proprietary ad-planning tool, which determines which SKUs to promote during specific times of the month, has helped retailers promote "smarter" instead of promoting "harder."

In the area of product innovation, Dole launched a portfolio of family/value offerings that appeal to the heightened frugality prevalent among many consumers, as well as Extra Veggie & Hand Picked Selections.

Category Co-Captain

Packaged Salads

Fresh Express

Fresh Express, a Chiquita company, continues to thrive in its category management programs with key retailers.

In its work with a major Northeastern chain, Fresh Express helped simplify the shopping experience for consumers while improving product quality and merchandising. The supplier optimized assortment and space management with by-store planograms, optimized fixture placement by developing customized modules for the retailer, created by-segment-then-brand planogram flow tests, and employed vertical blade signs to better identify segments, thus simplifying the shopping experience.

The new fixture system is particularly innovative, as it uses pull-out merchandising trays with customized lock-in paddles that feature picture frames housing product graphics. The system design lends itself to reduced shrink and lower replacement costs.

Fresh Express' innovation and hard work paid off by helping its retail partner lift sales by more than 5 percent.

With all of its retail customers, Fresh Express offers weekly sales and margin updates that are simple yet insightful. The company helps retailers measure how well they're progressing against their targets, and helps identify which promotions drive the most growth.

Category Advisor

Pineapple

Del Monte Fresh Produce

In 2011, Del Monte joined forces with a major Midwestern regional retailer to help ignite the pineapple category.

When Del Monte assumed the role of category manager, the principal goal was to help the retailer increase sales. This was to be achieved by using a number of category management tools: FreshLook Marketing syndicated data, Market Track Ad Data reports and Spectra data. This data was used in addition to internal metrics given by the retailer to identify over- and underachieving stores.

The exercise turned out a few significant results. Using Market Track Ad Data, it was observed that the retailer's average ad pricing didn't offer a significant point of differentiation from the market, a situation that was resolved through the retailer's enactment of a lower promotional pricing strategy versus the previous year. Due to the analysis and subsequent actions, shipments to the stores increased nearly 10 percent for the year.

Del Monte's category managers work closely with its retail partners to formulate and execute plans to help optimize sales. The company's merchandisers assist with executing these plans at the retail level and ensure that products of the highest integrity are made available to consumers.

Category Captain

Specialty Produce

Frieda's Inc.

A longtime leader in the specialty produce category, Frieda's expanded its promotional activity and category sales with retail clients in 2012. Frieda's aims to increase foot traffic in retail customers' produce departments through such tactics as product mix optimization, merchandising recommendations, sales analyses, business reviews, promotions and marketing.

This year, during a 12-week test at a major retailer, the produce supplier optimized the product mix and SKU base at 10 mainstream and upscale stores. Results showed that an increase in variety led to an increase in total produce sales and profits.

Frieda's also continued to expand retail promotions, including its popular "Produce University" platform, which addresses staff training and engagement in store-level produce departments.

As well as fostering store-level engagement, Produce University invigorates sales: Frieda's retail clients typically see an incremental sales lift in produce for weeks after a promotion.

This year, Frieda's also introduced the "Love Your Produce Manager" (LYPM) retail promotion. During the promotion, consumers could vote for their favorite produce managers via cellphone, be entered into a drawing to win a $500 gift card and take part in free weekly tasting events.

Category Advisor

Leafy Greens

Green Giant Fresh

Green Giant Fresh is helping bring sales to the produce department by being the only produce brand featuring "Box Tops for Education" coupons - the No. 1 school fundraising program in the United States.

The Box Tops program is included on a number of Green Giant Fresh produce items. As a bonus, Green Giant Fresh Romaine Hearts feature an online coupon code that doubles the Box Tops promotional value through an instant online redemption.

Recently, Green Giant Fresh launched a tool on its website that locates stores carrying its products, and lists which items in those stores carry the Box Top codes.

Average monthly redemption dollars are up 79 percent from the prior year, and schools that have benefited have increased on a monthly average of 154 percent since 2011.

Green Giant Fresh's Romaine Hearts exhibited growth each month of the three months observed, where the average growth was 44 percent in retail dollars and 43 percent in retail volume movement. Romaine Hearts significantly outpaced all other lettuce (lettuce excluding RH), and was a key driver of the overall lettuce category's gains in April and May.

Category Captain

Value-added Vegetables

Apio

Fresh-cut produce industry leader Apio Inc.'s Eat Smart brand heads the value-added vegetables category, accounting for 10.2 percent of total category sales. In the 52 weeks ending July 28, value-added vegetables retail sales as whole rose 15.1 percent in volume and 13.3 percent in dollars nationally.

Since value-added produce shoppers are increasingly important to the retailer, and a primary driver of value-added produce's sales growth is the growing emphasis on healthy snacking, Apio introduced the sweet and savory Fresh Gatherings 36-ounce tray in October 2011 as a diverse snacking option.

At one of Apio's retail partners, the Fresh Gatherings 36-ounce tray with dual dips accounted for 12.8 percent of the vegetable tray category from October 2011 through June 2012. The retailer's tray category saw volume growth of 11.5 percent from the prior year, with 100 percent of that growth coming directly from the introduction of the Apio Fresh Gatherings tray, according to Nielsen Perishables Group FreshFacts.

Apio further expanded its offerings this year by acquiring GreenLine, the second-leading value-added brand, accounting for 5.2 percent of total category sales, and its line of products. Combined, Eat Smart and GreenLine account for 15.4 percent of total category sales and saw growth of 13.6 percent in total dollar sales during the 52 weeks ending July 28.

Category Captain

Front End/Services

Coinstar

The stated mission of Coinstar Inc. is to reimagine retail in new and unexpected ways.

A significant enhancement to the automated retail space over the past year was the company's introduction of Rubi, an innovative coffee-on-demand kiosk targeting underserved retail locations without a manned coffee kiosk, or locations with a lower-quality, higher-maintenance coffee solution. Hundreds of kiosks serving Seattle's Best Coffee are expected to roll out by the end of the year, with thousands of machines slated to be implemented in the next several years.

Other Coinstar initiatives at retail include investing in FDA-approved SoloHealth Stations, which offer consumers vision, blood pressure and body mass index testing in hundreds of high-traffic retail locations, and are poised for a nationwide rollout into thousands of stores in 2013, as well as investment in ecoATM Inc., which keeps toxic electronic components out of landfills and unlocks remaining value in electronic devices, and piloting the environmentally friendly Orango kiosk, which sells tested and restored value electronics.

The company's turnkey solutions ensure that retailers don't have to worry about managing or servicing its kiosks, as there are no equipment or labor costs, and no inventory to manage. Additionally, consumers who use the kiosks are likely to spend more at the retail location while they're there, according to Coinstar.

OTHER PERIMETER

Category Captain

Front End/Prepaid

Blackhawk Network

Prepaid gift cards continue to grow in popularity as shoppers demand more choices for gifts and alternative payment vehicles. According to Mercator Advisory Group, in 2011, the U.S. open-loop gift card market grew 19 percent to $14.9 billion, up from $12.6 billion in 2010, while the total U.S. prepaid market grew by 18 percent, from $410.8 billion in 2010 to $483.2 billion in 2011, and $14.71 billion was loaded onto closed-loop gift cards through card malls in 2011. It's projected that this amount will rise to $16.18 billion in 2012 and $17.8 billion in 2013.

Prepaid industry leader Blackhawk Network's Gift Card Mall and Prepaid Center are one-stop shops for consumers looking for gift, telecom and financial options. Over the past 12 months, the company has continued to grow its strategic partnerships and product offerings within grocery store locations across the United States and abroad.

Blackhawk worked with food retailers to boost sales and awareness of prepaid in grocery through promotional campaigns encompassing circulars, checkstand rack inserts, wobblers, in-store radio, e-mail blasts, online, radio, website features and Card of the Month features, among other components. Specific 2012 promotions include a back-to-school initiative in which customers earned fuel points with the purchase of gift cards, and a Father's Day program in which customers who bought a select gift card worth $50 or more earned $10 off their next shopping order.
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Publication:Progressive Grocer
Article Type:Company overview
Date:Nov 1, 2012
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