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McLane Transforms Lab Store Into Center for Category Innovation

FINDLAY, Ohio — McLane Co. Inc. has officially launched the McLane Center for Category Innovation (CCI).

Formerly known as the Lab Store, McLane rebranded this exclusive value-add service as the CCI 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, category development expertise, manufacturer expertise and guidance focused on helping customers design a product mix and planograms to achieve overall category excellence and increase profits, the company said in a press release.

According to McLane, more than 70 percent of its customers visit CCI at least once annually, keeping the facility 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,” said Alan Tobin, senior manager for category strategy and insights at The Hershey Co. “By utilizing a combination of shopper insights, industry trends and market and retailer data, the very best planogram is built.”

CCI Senior Category Development Analyst Jennifer Hutto added that the collective breadth of industry experience is one of the leading reasons why the CCI has been successful in helping customers increase sales.

“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,” she explained. 

Hutto used Tom Thumb Food Stores as an example of how CCI is beneficial to McLane customers. In the midst of a major rebranding effort focused on delivering the brand’s “Fast, Fresh and Friendly” service and store renovations, Tom Thumb Food Stores collaborated with CCI, McLane’s category managers, supplier partners, IRI and exclusive analytical resources from McLane’s data warehouse to customize unique planograms tailored specifically to each store’s zip code, offering in-depth knowledge of what would sell to their unique consumer demographics. 

As a result, total purchases increased over a three-year period with double-digit sales growth in their snacks, grocery and Health care and beauty categories. Tom Thumb Food Stores now visits CCI on an annual basis, McLane noted.

“Another key advantage of working with McLane and the CCI is the depth of information resources. 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,” Hutto concluded.

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