HOW THE MASTERS EARN THE NAME

Industry players shed light on the ways that master brokers prove handy, from helping spruce up an existing line, to restructuring an entire controlled brand strategy.Big Y Foods, Springfield, Mass., inherited master broker Daymon Associates, based in Stamford Conn., through its alliance with the buying group Topco, Skokie, Ill., as part of a greater "commitment to expand the private-label program

Industry players shed light on the ways that master brokers prove handy, from helping spruce up an existing line, to restructuring an entire controlled brand strategy.

Big Y Foods, Springfield, Mass., inherited master broker Daymon Associates, based in Stamford Conn., through its alliance with the buying group Topco, Skokie, Ill., as part of a greater "commitment to expand the private-label program and make this thing happen," according to Dan Lescoe, vice president of sales and marketing at Big Y.

"Daymon has certainly helped in this process; they keep private label on the front burner, active every day. They do everything, from the normal turn ordering, the coordination of labeling, pricing, new items, discontinued items, block buys -- the day-to-day, nut and bolts of it. There is no magic here; it is just being good at handling the basics."

As with most of the other retailers contacted, private-label programs have expanded at Big Y since linking with a master broker. The chain's stockkeeping unit count went from 500 to 1,500, Lescoe said.

P&C Food Markets, Syracuse, N.Y., joined the Topco cooperative in 1991. "The Daymon people are the retail arms and legs of Topco," said John McCabe, vice president of procurement, grocery, dairy, frozen food and ice cream at P&C. "We were at about 650 SKUs, and we set a goal to double that within 24 months. We have leveled off now at 1,200 to 1,300. We would not have been able to do that without Topco and Daymon," McCabe said.

"We went through a complete package revamp. They had quality assurance people, and their own label design people. They helped us work with all the different manufacturers, the new companies that we had no experience with," McCabe said.

The Topco-Daymon influence also helped P&C incorporate World Classics premium-label soft drinks into its portfolio, which McCabe said has, in turn, enabled his corporate stores and retail customers to compete with the strong store-brand soda program of Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans Food Markets.

"We spent three or four months working on that with the Daymon people here and at Topco's headquarters in Skokie. They came up with the TV ad campaign, a billboard campaign and in-store signing campaign. It was a real team approach and the launch was a success, measured by dollar and unit sales. It set Wegmans back on their heels a little bit."

Ed Cook Jr., director of controlled brands at Harris Teeter, Charlotte, N.C., gave brokerage house Marketing Management Inc., Fort Worth, Texas, credit for streamlining the chain's label management in a tumultuous period: label reform under the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act.

"The relationship was particularly key with the requirements of NLEA, and we redesigned our primary Harris Teeter brand coincidental with NLEA," Cook recounted.

"As difficult as that was, it would have been a nightmare without MMI. It involved every manufacturer. MMI was really the control point. They could tell us where we were with each of the different labels. It is a huge effort that we are still not finished with today."