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Retailers, Vendors Cite Successful Partnerships

ORLANDO, Fla. — Hy-Vee teamed with the Wisconsin Milk Marketing board to train store personnel and develop some creative promotions that moved 20 tons of cheese from one small supplier, according to an executive of the chain who spoke at Food Marketing Institute’s Future Connect conference here.

It was one of several retailer-supplier collaborative efforts discussed as part of a series on industry collaboration at the conference. Others included a partnership between Meijer and Clorox Co. to build “grilling occasion” promotions involving Kingsford charcoal, and promotions involving Frito-Lay and Bi-Lo/Winn-Dixie that leveraged the chain’s Facebook page and spurred interest in Frito-Lay’s snack products.

A separate session on collaboration focused on partnerships between Wakefern and Mondelez International; and among MyWebGrocer, ShopRite and Campbell Soup Co.

Tom Hobt of Hy-Vee, left and Kerry Henning of Henning's Cheese
Tom Hobt of Hy-Vee, left and Kerry Henning of Henning's Cheese (Photos by Greg Cohen/ProView Events)

In the grilling promotion, Shawn Sinicrope, vice president of hardlines/general merchandise at Meijer, said the company looked for products customers were already purchasing for grilling occasions — like meats, buns, soda and chips — and paired them with charcoal.

“We had to think about what was best for the customer, rather than what was best for the retailer, and what was best for the supplier,” he said. “It really benefitted all parties to put the customer first.”

Mary Anne Hogan Johnson, Clorox customer team manager, said that in order to make such collaborations work, suppliers need to work with people higher in the retail organization than category managers and buyers.

“You really need to involve key stakeholders to get behind a key platform,” she said.

Sinicrope added that in conducting such bundled promotions, it can be difficult to measure success.

“For us, we measured impact on basket size, which is more complicated than just measuring one single item,” he explained.

Marty L. Pullin of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board
Marty L. Pullin of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board

In the Hy-Vee cheese partnership, Tom Hobt, vice president of perishables at Hy-Vee, said the West Des Moines, Iowa-based chain wanted to create more excitement around its cheese displays, and to have more face-to-face interaction with customers. “We found we needed passion,” he said. “We had 130-140 varieties in a 12-foot wall set, but we wanted something a little more.”

The retailer turned to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, which helped Hy-Vee with training and in putting together promotions such as massive cheese carvings in its stores. Working with a small Wisconsin-based supplier called Henning’s Cheese, Hy-Vee was able to put together an in-store promotion that moved 40,000 pounds of Hatch Pepper Cheddar cheese last fall.

Hobt outlined 10 steps to having successful partnerships with suppliers:

1. Identify the specific challenge.

2. Identify potential partners, and be open-minded about finding them.

3. Discuss the challenges with all the partners involved.

4. Set a timeline.

5. Seek a “win-win,” even if the goals are not the same for all parties.

6. Be willing to take risks.

7. Be committed — commitment builds trust, he said.

8. Plan the execution, with realistic deadlines.

9. Execute the plan, but be prepared to adjust.

10. Evaluate the results, and share feedback.

Photos by Greg Cohen

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