KROGER DIVISION TRIES A NEW TWIST IN PASTA

WESTERVILLE, Ohio -- Kroger Co.'s Columbus division here is looking to boost its pasta sales through a department reset in its 98 stores, according to a chain official.Mark Knowlton, division category manager, said Kroger is using category management to eliminate duplication of some products, and to focus on supply and demand while keeping Kroger's variety intact. The changes to stores' pasta aisles

WESTERVILLE, Ohio -- Kroger Co.'s Columbus division here is looking to boost its pasta sales through a department reset in its 98 stores, according to a chain official.

Mark Knowlton, division category manager, said Kroger is using category management to eliminate duplication of some products, and to focus on supply and demand while keeping Kroger's variety intact. The changes to stores' pasta aisles should be completed by the end of this month, he said.

"Based upon the size of our section, the variety, eliminating the out-of-stocks and looking at the turns, we expect our reset to enhance our pasta sales," Knowlton told SN.

"What we're really doing is just making the set reflect the customer more. The things the customers are buying we're trying to have and have in enough quantities so that the varieties are a minimum pack out.

"I have [already] received some favorable feedback from a few store managers, and a few customer compliments. It is still a little early to tell bumps in the business because at this time of the year you can't tell if it is seasonal, promotional or if the sets have affected it," he added.

Knowlton said he examined the total category for the reset, looking for redundant products.

"What I really did was to take a look at the stockkeeping units by long goods, short goods, and got rid of non-variety types of things. How many one-pound spaghettis do you need? After you get to the fifth or sixth brand, is that really variety any more, or is it redundancy?"

To decide which pastas to delist,

Knowlton said he subgrouped his pasta SKUs so that he would be able to maintain Kroger's pasta variety.

"The danger is if you rank them from one to 200 and go to the bottom of the list and start eliminating on the way up, you would wind up getting rid of all of your variety and just end up with one-pound spaghetti and elbows."

He said the realignment of the pasta aisle has only "slightly" decreased the number of SKUs that the chain carries.

"What I did was to try to balance the day's supply. This is a pretty big Mueller's market so their one-pound spaghetti might have three facings, while a competitor's might have one facing, but from a day's supply standpoint it would be fairly equal," he said.

Knowlton said to optimize the total category the pasta sauce section was also reset to thin out some weak players and give more equilibrium to manufacturers' respective pasta and sauces lines.

"Generally, the department stayed about the same size, but in about 20% of the stores it was made 4 feet smaller. "In about 10 of our higher volume, higher end stores we put in a 4-foot specialty section," Knowlton said.

Knowlton said Kroger's private-label offerings increased slightly as a result of the reset.

"We have a new person doing our private label and they had a couple of varieties that they just introduced, such as angel hair, which isn't normally found in a private label," he said.

Knowlton said he expects his advertising strategy to remain about the same once the reset is completed. "I still try to advertise the basic pasta with the sauce, the noodles with the broth and related tie-ins," he said.