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Why General Mills Is 2016’s Alternative Snacks Category Captain


MINNEAPOLIS — By breaking out a growing subcategory to enhance “shopability,” General Mills Convenience wants to make the alternative snacks category easier to shop, including putting more energy and space toward breakfast and nutrition.

For its efforts, the company was selected winner of the 2016 Convenience Store News Category Captains award in the alternative snacks category.

Now in its third year, the awards program applauds outstanding category management initiatives implemented in the convenience channel over the past 12 months. All entries were judged by product development experts at consumer research firm Past Times Marketing based on the information supplied by participating companies.

To learn more about how to make the alternative snacks category more shopable, General Mills tapped its “Category First” team of dedicated category management experts who deliver relevant and actionable industry insights to deepen strategic customer reach and provide enhanced business analytics to drive sales. From tapping General Mills’ Consumer Insights team for recommendations based on shopping behavior and buying patterns, to its ability to access multiple sources of data and its proprietary tools, Category First assists c-stores with holistic assortment and merchandising guidance to drive growth.

Some of the key insights uncovered by Category First on alternative snacks are:

  • Consumers base their purchase decisions according to the type of bar (i.e., energy, protein, grain, treat) and the specific benefits it provides them. For example, satiety (filling) and health attributes (better for you) are key differentiators. C-store bar shoppers rate “bar type” first and brand second over all other attributes when making their purchase decisions.
  • Consumers generally consider bars to be a great on-the-go snack that can be enjoyed as a treat or to fill up on until the next meal. Consumers purchase and eat bars across all dayparts, but choose which type of bar based on their need. Three-quarters of bars purchased are consumed in the morning (as breakfast or a morning snack).

As an advisor to more than 20 large, strategic retailers and numerous distributors, General Mills Convenience is influencing retailers to move away from the traditional cookie/cracker/bar combined set. Instead, it is encouraging c-stores to move crackers to be with salty items, creating a separate sweet section and a separate breakfast/nutrition section. With shoppers spending less than three minutes on average in the store, retailers need to make it easier for consumers to find what they are looking for. Breaking out the alternative snacks category enhances shopability and increases conversion.

According to General Mills, the new breakfast/nutrition area should include cup cereal, pastries, granola bars and energy bars. A separate afternoon/indulgent section may include crackers, cookies, bakery items and treat bars organized by segment and brand.

Retailers that have worked with General Mills to break out breakfast and nutrition have experienced double-digit growth, the company said.

The new sweet section should consist of cookies, brownies and treat bars, the company explained. Sweet consumers make their decisions first based on time of day and second on whether or not they are in the mood for a sugar fix or something more indulgent (chocolate). The last step in the decision-making process for sweet snacks is whether they need a small snack to tide them over or something more substantial to fill them up.

A separate sweet section provides shoppers solutions for their need state, offering indulgent items and satisfying cravings.

Category First’s recommendation is to organize the sweet section by segment (cookies, bakery and treats) and by brand, placing like items together to make it easy for consumers. Retailers should try to group non-chocolate sweet items together and then transition into bakery-type items, leading into a move to chocolate/indulgent offerings.

For example, cookies should be grouped together and organized by brand and flavor. Treat bars, which are mainly purchased and consumed in the afternoon, should be merchandised in the sweet set with other indulgent items, not with breakfast items. They make a great anchor for the section because of their large, bright packaging, according to General Mills.

The supplier reports it is seeing great success with retailers that are dedicating four to six feet of space to a breakfast/bar section and dedicating three to four feet to a sweet section.

For more on the winners and their category management initiatives, look in the Convenience Store News Guide to Category Management, coming out later this month. 

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