Industry Voices: The Increasing Importance Of Sales And Consumer Data

Denise Purcell
In completing the recently released State of the Specialty Food Industry research, 2020-2021 Edition, the Specialty Food Association, working in collaboration with Mintel, interviewed members across the supply chain for their insights and context into today’s market. Many weighed in on the importance of sales and consumer data. 

Among highlights from their comments: specialty brands need data to justify their slotting in key retailers and even smaller specialty retailers need data to effectively category manage and identify up-and-coming brands and product trends. Ironically, on the e-commerce side there is a lack of good and affordable data available to brands. Consumer insights are available, but even then, many brands don’t really know who’s buying their products on Amazon and other sites. Tracking category performance is difficult and limited to one’s own brand.

Here is a compilation of supply chain responses. The interviews are included in the 125+-page full report.

“The top retailers count on you to show your data, [and they want to see that] you know how to analyze it and present it and tell the retailer why it’s relevant to them. Retailers need to feel confident that you have the infrastructure, the supply chain, the brand, the packaging, the promo plan, and that you can analyze promotions and react if a promotion isn’t working as well … and that you have the funding. It’s showing retailers that you can be a partner, though that term is overused.  
     Typically, they count on you to paint what’s happening in the category, nationally as well as regionally. Then they want you to tell them if you already have distribution in their banners, how you’re doing, and especially what’s driving [performance]. 
     The best thing is an intersection of the geography and the right retailer. Meaning, if you’re trying to sell to Kroger in the Southeast, if you have a success story with Publix in the Southeast, then that’s the best thing that you can show. So, it’s giving them relevant data in a way that they can digest it, focusing on the top metrics.”
-director of growth and category management for an 11-year-old specialty dessert brand

“For [conventional supermarket chains] you absolutely have to have the data, but the good news is that with the independents, they don’t expect these new pioneering brands to have any data, although some of them will. If [these brands] have their ducks in a row with some kind of data, it does help. But I have to pinpoint a key point [for retail buyers] and say, “On this new line or brand extension, it’s the number-one line, and you might want to authorize all [SKUs].”
-retail account manager for a 20+-year-old natural/specialty brokerage

“Within category management, we can give [retailers] top sellers, but [also pointing out] where they can specialize and highlight their difference is in the periphery of each category … what’s new, what’s unique, what’s local, things like that.
We rely on SPINS data for a lot of [our insights], but also [our expertise lies in communicating new trends] because we’re at that forefront of innovation—pre-data, where it’s kind of not even starting to stir yet. Every month or so, we do webinars that go beyond data and look at trends and consumer insights and things like that.”
-retail services manager for a natural/specialty retailer cooperative
“We’re tracking our own [e-com] sales, our search spend, our conversion spend with coupons, and piecing that all together to see what our impressions are looking like, what’s our cost per click, seeing how we’re performing from that angle. Obviously, you can understand a little bit about how you’re doing versus your competition in terms of how you show up with an organic search, and who is winning bids for placements for specific keywords that are important for you to win.
      You get a little bit of an idea, but it’s not as solid as something like SPINS, or even retailer-specific data. [These data providers] just put it out there, [whereas with e-commerce] it’s not like that. It’s kind of frustrating. All I’m doing is measuring ourselves against ourselves.”
-national account manager, e-commerce, for a 35-year-old family-run specialty food brand

You can purchase the 125-page State of the Specialty Food Industry Full Report and 10-Year Category Tracking and Forecasts (available at a discounted price for SFA members). And, download a recording of the recent webinar The State of the Specialty Food Industry + COVID-19 Impact here.
Posted by Denise Purcell on Sep 17, 2020 3:30 PM America/New_York