Suppliers Expand Partnership Role

Food industry suppliers may be the biggest multitaskers in the business world. The demands placed on this group have surged as retailers seek a wider range of support and leadership from their trading partners. Gone are the days when the retailer-supplier relationship was concentrated on a limited number of activities such as category management. Today's relationships are far more complex. Suppliers

Food industry suppliers may be the biggest multitaskers in the business world.

The demands placed on this group have surged as retailers seek a wider range of support and leadership from their trading partners. Gone are the days when the retailer-supplier relationship was concentrated on a limited number of activities such as category management.

Today's relationships are far more complex. Suppliers are more strictly evaluated for attributes ranging from shopper insights to innovation, in addition to category management. They are expected to excel with in-store execution, focus on costs, collaboration, marketing/promotions support, and a host of other attributes. Their success often relies on having a skilled team of executives and a powerful brand and assortment (see the list of Supplier Support Functions in box on this page).

This week's theme issue focuses on SN's Category Excellence Awards. SN spotlights suppliers who best serve retailers' needs in a range of categories. Editors chose the winners based on feedback from retailers, who voted for suppliers in a comprehensive online survey and participated in interviews. SN rounded out this information with survey and interview feedback from other industry participants. Suppliers were asked to nominate their companies for category awards, but did not participate in voting in those categories.

SN's methodology wasn't simply to ask for the identities of the best suppliers. Editors asked respondents to identify the key reasons for their choices, either by picking from a provided list or adding their own. The reasons are highlighted in a box within each of the write-ups (see the sample profile below).

Many of the articles include quotes from retailers. Here are a few examples:

  • In the Beef category, National Beef was named the winner. One of the reasons given was In-Store Execution, as underscored by this retailer respondent: “[National Beef] has a strong team in place that does store audits and has a good reporting system to drive change…”

  • In the Soup category, Campbell's was chosen as the winner, partly because it ties into consumer trends through its workshops for retailers. Said one retailer: “Cambell's helped bring together all the people in our organization required for something of this magnitude. They brought unique and objective insights about the solution, as well as a lot of energy that helped keep momentum going over a period of several months. I'm not sure what would have happened if we tried to do this ourselves.”

  • In the Snack category, Frito-Lay got top honors, partly because of its innovation abilities. “Frito-Lay is excellent at creating new and innovative items that appeal to today's consumer,” said one retailer. “It has the best overall assortment in the snack category, bar none.”

Overall, there are 55 gold and silver awards in 28 categories spanning Center Store, Fresh Market and Nonfood.

SN would like to thank a number of organizations for helping to distribute the survey. These groups were Efficient Collaborative Retail Marketing, Grocery Manufacturers Association and National Grocers Association. Thanks also to all those who responded to the survey.

SUPPLIER SUPPORT FUNCTIONS

  • In-store execution
  • Strength of brand and assortment
  • Tying into consumer trends
  • Innovation
  • Shopper insights
  • Focus on costs
  • Category management
  • Collaboration
  • Marketing/promotions support
  • Skilled team of executives

Guide to Winner Profiles

Here is background on the articles throughout this issue that spotlight supplier leaders:

CATEGORY: Each article focuses on one of 28 categories spanning Center Store, Nonfood and Fresh Market

GOLD AND SILVER WINNERS: SN editors chose winners based on retailer votes in a survey and responses to interview questions. Editors also took into account feedback from other industry participants. Overall, there are 55 winning companies.

BULLET POINTS: This box shows the key reasons each supplier was named a winner. Respondents to SN's survey were asked to pick reasons for choosing each supplier from a list of support functions highlighted top right on this page.

STORY TEXT: This article provides more details on why each supplier was named a category leader, frequently quoting retailers and other experts directly from survey responses or interviews.