Trading partner relations are on the upswing with more than half (52.2%) of respondents to SN’s Supplier Leadership Awards survey stating that in terms of sharing data, collaboration and other interactions, partnerships between suppliers and retailers have strengthened.
Helping minimize the negative effects of inflation, higher gas prices and economic uncertainty are mutually beneficial promotions and merchandising schemes designed to buoy sinking sales. While introspection was the hallmark of past strategies centered on corporate brands, a greater focus on the bigger picture has retailers turning to suppliers for help.
“As overall sales are struggling, retailers have become more interested in opening and expanding the relationship,” said a manufacturer respondent. “There is more and more exchange of information and planning with retailers than ever before,” said another.
Manufacturers are in turn finding value in teaming with proprietors of the retail environment. “Suppliers are in general much more interested in partnership rather than just a product and a price,” noted a retailer.
Indeed, in their quest to help supermarkets solve business issues and customize the shopping experience by store, suppliers are honing a range of disciplines from product innovation to shopper insights, and a host of others for which SN is recognizing best-in-class examples.
Nominations were gathered this summer via SN’s Supplier Leadership Awards survey and supplemented with suggestions from industry analysts. With special consideration paid to nominations citing specific benefits to retailers, SN editors selected the winners. Click the company names for summaries of our findings, fleshed out in more detail on the linked pages.
It Takes Two
Kraft Foods  takes SN’s Supplier Leadership Award for Product Innovation for pioneering the liquid water enhancer category with MiO, a portable, self-mixing and zero-calorie flavoring that allows for customization. At a time when new product sales are waning, MiO joins Kraft’s Newtons Fruit Thins on SymphonyIRI Group’s “Rising Stars” list of the top 10 new food and beverage products on their way to becoming the highest revenue generators.
Campbell Soup Co.  is another supplier whose outside-the-box thinking is benefiting supermarkets. The Packaging Innovation award winner is making a splash with its Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Bread packaging. Despite removing a plastic tray to leverage shipping efficiencies, the vessel is rigid enough to display upright on the shelf, helping save valuable space and giving it a banner effect.
Also reducing its carbon footprint is Unilever , recognized in the Sustainability category for its Turn Off the Tap program. Launched in partnership with Wal-Mart, the campaign encourages Suave users to take shorter showers to save water and reduce emissions that result from heating it.
Hershey’s  is another standout, celebrated for its creation of a summertime candy season centered on s’mores. The winner of SN’s Collaboration award has brought incremental revenue to retailers by pairing its chocolate bars with Kraft’s Honey Maid graham crackers and Jet-Puffed marshmallows. To further sweeten the deal, it provides flexible displays that let store brands in on the act.
Procter & Gamble  has likewise helped retailers boost sales with a redesign of the Swiffer aisle. P&G earned SN’s Shopper Insights award for its proactive approach to research that identified a trial barrier at Wal-Mart. Sales improved so significantly that the scheme was rolled out to additional chains.
The winner of the Category Management award is General Mills  for helping retailers maximize sales by identifying quantifiable drivers of category growth.
ConAgra Foods  is leveraging multiple media platforms as part of its Meal Maker Challenge launched with H-E-B. Local food bloggers compete in the contest by creating recipes using ConAgra brands. The Integrated Marketing award winner’s challenge also involves in-store elements like the cross-promotion of ConAgra products with H-E-B private labels.
Customization is also a priority for Mars Chocolate North America , winner of the POS Merchandising award. The M&M’S maker introduced its newest character, Ms. Brown, at H-E-B with excitement-inducing displays and a contest to win Texas-style boots and hats. Mars also helps retailers maximize revenue by cross-promoting its chocolate with private-label popcorn as part of a sweet and salty movie-viewing combo.
Suppliers who bring a feel-good element to grocery aisles are also in the spotlight. Fresh Express ’ Text-to-Donate campaign will help bring daily access to fresh produce to thousands of schoolchildren. As part of the program that earned the Chiquita brand the Community Outreach award, Harris Teeter shoppers can text “SALAD” to 80077 to donate $5 to the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools program. Fresh Express will match shopper donations up to $15,000.
Acosta Sales & Marketing is another company recognized for its good works. The winner in the Cause Marketing category launched its first Believe in Heroes campaign last year to raise awareness of the Wounded Warrior Project, a non-profit organization devoted to helping wounded veterans. Working with 50 client brands and 65 food retailers through Believe in Heroes, Acosta raised $3.5 million last year and expects to hit $4 million this year.
Through its sponsorship of the National Grocers Association’s Executive Leadership Development Program, PepsiCo , winner of the Support for Small Chains and Independents award, is also lending a helping hand. The annual program that trains managers from independent retailers on effective leadership would not be possible without PepsiCo’s financial support, NGA President Peter Larkin told SN.
SN is also recognizing General Mills  for its New Media Marketing efforts, resulting in increased basket size. Shoppers can scan a QR code on Progresso Recipe Starters to access recipes and pick up ingredients while they shop.
Mead Johnson Nutrition ’s approach to Unsaleables Reduction is highlighted in the following pages. The maker and distributor of Enfamil infant formula extended the shelf life of products via reformulation after realizing the biggest contributor to products not fit for sale was expiration.
The DSD Logistics award goes to Coca-Cola Refreshments , a unit created from the merger of Coca-Cola and bottler Coca-Cola Enterprises. CCR is improving execution in inventory planning, transportation and delivery of more than 500 sparkling and still brands. It’s also collaborated with Kroger to identify optimal display size by store.
Hormel Foods  is driving success at the shelf from the top down. At a time when Center Store sales are slipping, the Executive Leadership award winner reported record earnings, led by a 21% increase in dollar sales in the grocery product segment.
Food Safety is another area where PepsiCo  excels. The advocate for the Rapid Recall Exchange encourages suppliers to get on board with the web-based tool and provides tips and feedback for the benefit of retailers, suppliers and the consumers they serve.
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