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    PG Reveals Winners of 2014 Category Captains Awards

    Category management leaders transcend brands to drive sales across the store

    By Jim Dudlicek, EnsembleIQ

    In their 18th year, Progressive Grocer’s Category Captains Awards honor CPG companies for their category management prowess, demonstrated through their partnerships with grocery retailers.

    This year, there were 105 total winners among those selected as Category Captains, our top honor, and Category Advisors, our honorable mention designation. All winners are featured in PG’s November 2014 issue.

    From perimeter to center store, suppliers continue to demonstrate their understanding of retailers’ needs to address shopper demands and offer innovative ways to achieve them, elevating the visibility and relevance not simply of their own brands but for their entire categories and, increasingly, other categories throughout the store.

    Partnering to Create Solutions

    Make the experience the hero, not the product – that was the mantra of former PepsiCo boss John Scully, and it’s certainly a philosophy that has turned the best companies into selling machines. In an age where shoppers are looking for not just “stuff,” but a personalized experience that makes them feel they’re truly understood by retailers, it’s an attitude that merchants of all stripes would be well advised to follow.

    Shoppers want solutions, and meeting or exceeding such expectations is the difference between a good retailer and a great one. And the great ones are partnering effectively with their CPG allies to deliver on their promises.

    The concept of category management is rapidly transforming into “need state management,” according to the Category Management Association’s Gordon Wade, who notes that while traditional grocers are struggling with leakage to other channels proving themselves better equipped to deliver in certain categories, supermarket retailers must leverage their strengths to drive traffic throughout the store and cultivate a flourishing customer base.

    That means partnering well with suppliers that can create customized solutions for the highly regionalized tastes of grocery shoppers around the country, by turning valuable customer insights into actionable and monetized solutions that keep people coming through the door.

    Top category managers understand how shoppers think. For example: as more shoppers look to retailers like Amazon for diapers, Procter & Gamble has stepped up its game to keep grocers top of mind with consumers for baby care. Cross-merchandising with complementary products and stressing performance claims are proving successful at keeping shoppers in center store for their baby needs.

    Meanwhile, as sales of canned tuna have dwindled, Bumble Bee Seafoods leveraged consumers’ desire for transparency and responsible sourcing, and rallied retail support for its partnership with the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) and Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

    And Hormel’s joint venture MegaMex Foods is driving growth across the multicategory ethnic foods segment by partnering with retailers to maximize regional preferences for authentic Mexican foods.

    Other standouts: Anheuser-Busch and E&J Gallo continue to build upon their historic successes in the spirits department, while Zevia  is breathing new life into carbonated soft drinks. Enjoy Life has built the “free-from” category from a few niche products into a mainstream destination. Kraft has created a new category to meet growing demand for high-protein options with its refrigerated snack packs.

    And several categories enjoy shared captaincy as we were impressed by exemplary entries in categories like candy, soft drinks, bagged salads and vitamin supplements.

    Working together to understand consumer behavior can be a sure-fire method for retailers and manufacturers to deliver sustainable category growth, and retain shopper loyalty as alternate channels such as e-tailers hit upon better ways to deliver the goods.

    Please join us in celebrating this year’s class of worthy winners – read about them all in our November issue

    By Jim Dudlicek, EnsembleIQ
    • About Jim Dudlicek As editor-in-chief of Progressive Grocer, Jim Dudlicek oversees daily operations of the magazine, spearheads its signature features, produces PG’s monthly Trend Alert newsletter on center store issues, moderates its regular webcast series, and writes and comments about a wide range of grocery issues. A food industry journalist since 2002, Jim came to PG in June 2010 after covering the dairy industry for 7½ years, during which time he served as chief editor of Dairy Field and Dairy Foods magazines. A graduate of Marquette University, Jim is fascinated by how truly progressive grocers inspire consumers to enjoy food, transforming the industry from mere merchants into educators that can take the most basic of all necessities and turn it into something profound and life-enhancing.

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