2020 Category Captain for Packaged Sweet Snacks: McKee Foods
McKee Foods has recognized the importance of a strong packaged sweet snacks category in being a critical component to growing its Little Debbie, Drakes and Sunbelt Bakery Granola Bar product lines. Due to the importance of the health of the total category, the company invests in ensuring that category managers get the category insights and support they need in order to grow both the category and McKee’s brands.
McKee conducts in-depth opportunity gap analysis that examines the retail dollars being missed by a retailer, and an efficient assortment analysis to show segment, brand or UPC opportunity and what brands or SKUs may be missing or underperforming in the retailer's planogram. Another category-leading program is a shipper marketing program designed to either drive consumers to the category or encourage them to increase their basket with category purchases.
Packaged sweet snacks is one of the most impulsive categories in a convenience store, so it is critical for the health of the category to interrupt the customer's shopping pattern and get the category in front of them — which is often done with endcaps and secondary displays. One of McKee's biggest category accomplishments has been helping retailers understand the importance of giving space to the category on endcaps and elsewhere. McKee commissioned third-party studies to confirm the impulsiveness of the category and highlight the importance of displays. McKee also supported retail category managers with opportunity gap studies to show the negative impact on the entire category when the product is not displayed prominently.
One of the biggest successes in 2019 came from a retailer with stores throughout the Southeast. This retailer already had a healthy category and recognized the need for the category to interrupt the shopper’s path in the store. However, they still had some opportunity for growth by ensuring the top brands had the correct SKUs in all stores at all times. McKee did an efficient assortment analysis during a top-to-top visit that showed the need for increased variety of Little Debbie products in one market, but also showed the need for a competitor’s product in another market. The retailer made some category changes based on McKee's recommendations. Since the reset, its results are up more than 20 percent in both dollar and unit growth.
Also in 2019, several retailer category managers asked McKee to help grow customer baskets while shopping the category. The supplier designed multiple shopper marketing campaigns around the country designed to encourage customers to make an additional purchase, with the cashier prompting the customer at the register. These programs have been very successful, seeing unit growth between 5 percent and 12 percent for the brand, as well as total category growth. The biggest success came when secondary displays were authorized for on or near the register.
Another initiative in 2019 was a program to help retailers drive customers from the pump into the stores and to the packaged sweet snacks category. McKee partnered with retailers' loyalty programs and offered free items or bundled the Little Debbie brand with other categories like hot beverage, fountain or other high-affinity items. While these programs are not expected to show significant lifts in unit or dollar sales, they do encourage consumers to get into the habit of visiting the stores and shopping the sweet snacks category.