McLane Company, Inc., a leading supply chain services company providing grocery and foodservice supply chain solutions, has launched the McLane Center for Category Innovation (CCI). Formerly known as the Lab Store, McLane rebranded the value-added service to reflect not only the facility's physical presence as a hands-on retail store where customers can explore innovative new products, but to recognize the service's in-depth data analytics, industry-leading category development expertise, dedicated manufacturer expertise and unbiased guidance focused on helping customers design a product mix and planograms to achieve overall category excellence and increase profits.
According the McLane officials, the facility has proven very popular for the firm's customers; more than 70 of them visit at least once a year and the facility is booked upwards of 250 days a year.
"McLane's Center for Category Innovation sessions allow category-leading manufacturers, McLane and the retailer to collaborate and create a geographically relevant assortment that meets the needs of the consumer," says Alan Tobin, senior manager for category strategy and insights at The Hershey Company. "By utilizing a combination of shopper insights, industry trends and market and retailer data, the very best planogram is built."
According to Jennifer Hutto, senior category development analyst at CCI in Temple, Texas, having the right participants in the room serves as a check and balance between multiple data sources. Additionally, the collective breadth of industry experience is one of the leading reasons why the CCI has been so successful in helping customers increase sales, she says. "We discuss overall performance of the categories, contributing factors that are affecting success, where the category is headed and how we hope to help drive future success with our customers," says Hutto.
One visitor to CCI has been the management of the Tom Thumb Food Stores division of Albertsons, which was in the midst of a major rebranding effort focused on delivering "Fast, Fresh and Friendly" service and renovating their stores with new products and flavor profiles to improve profitability.
Through CCI, the collaboration of Tom Thumb Food Stores, McLane's category managers, supplier partners, IRI and exclusive analytical resources from McLane's extensive data warehouse, the chain was able to customize unique planograms tailored specifically to each store's ZIP code, offering them in-depth knowledge of what would sell to their unique consumer demographics. As a result, total purchases have increased over a three-year period with double-digit growth in the snacks, grocery and HBW categories.
"Another key advantage of working with McLane and CCI is the depth of information resources," Hutto says. "With one of the industry's most robust data warehouses, the CCI utilizes an aggregated class of trade-specific data and compares these findings with multiple syndicated data sources so that customers can make data-driven decisions on product assortment."
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