Do This; Don’t Do That

Category management can be a marathon. So run a mile in these retailers’ shoes. What has worked for them? And what hasn’t?
do this; don't do that

Up the Snack Game

Summertime means snack time for Dash In

When summer rolls around, Dash In’s Snack Goodness concept rolls into its 280 stores. Aaron Mace, category manager for the La Plata, Md., chain, says it’s the first thing many customers see when they walk through the doors.

“We implemented this across many of our stores in summer 2015,” Mace says. “The custom endcap fixture has an upscale wood-grain ­finish and holds 40-plus alternative snack SKUs, each with high-quality packaging and compelling product attributes.

“It sets a nice tone for the store overall,” he says. “Several of our categories have evolved toward a high-quality offering where customers perceive benefits on several levels. I think more and more we are conveying the concept of quality through merchandising.”

The chain each year looks for incremental ways to elevate the stores’ product mix and merchandising design of all categories, especially high-volume segments such as snacks and foodservice, Mace says.

In the chain’s stores with made-to-order (MTO) foodservice, it put in racks to showcase the Kettle Chip brand. They sit in front of the MTO station and next to order kiosks.

“Kettle Chips are high-quality with great texture and flavor,” he says. “Our goal is to continually drive the perception of quality, trade customers up and increase market-basket transactions. Ideally, our customers will buy our artisan MTO sandwiches along with a bag of Kettle Chips and beverage.”

And it’s not just a chip phenomenon. Mace expects an even bigger uptick across the category in the coming years.

“There is significant upside in the salty-savory category,” he says. “For all retail channels, the total salty-snack growth through 2019 is expected to be roughly 20%, according to market data sources.”

That’s why Mace is equally excited about ushering in new products this season, including Pretzel Perfections (Lemon Cheesecake and Raspberry Truffle), Paqui Tortilla Chips (Very Verde and Nacho Cheese) and Simply 7 Quinoa Chips (Cheddar and Sea Salt).

“Each one of those brands has beautiful packaging and interesting flavor pro­files,” he says.

The whole idea came to fruition because of an underperforming merchandiser. The chain decided to swap it out because executives saw the growth in better-quality snacks and the emergence of millennial buyers and all the potential that came with them.

“In stores where we now have the Snack Goodness endcap, we used to have a DSD endcap with mainstream chips,” says Mace. “We felt it was time for a new and differentiated snack assortment in that prime endcap space.”

While the summer snack set is a success, the company continues to improve its potential.

“In many of our stores, we had the opportunity to improve on the placement of our inline salty-savory sets by relocating those products to high-traffic aisles nearby the packaged-beverage cooler,” Mace says. “This required a lot of reset work across the chain last spring 2015, but it helped us to create snack ‘power aisles’ with better adjacencies and impulse opportunities.”

Do's and Don'ts

Do: "The upgrades we made in the snack category in summer 2015 were a huge win for us and will continue to pay off this summer,” Mace says. The company carved out a 9-foot inline space for warehouse salty-savory snacks across two-thirds of the chain. The rest of the chain, which is made up of smaller-footprint stores, has a 6-foot inline salty-savory set. The innovation in these snack sections appeals to many consumer segments, he says.

Don't: Don’t ignore the obvious. Neglecting high-performing, on-trend products can limit your earning potential. “While we’ve had popcorn in our assortment for a while, the popcorn segment has grown a lot in the last one to two years and is forecasted to keep increasing,” Mace says. “As a result, I’ve [highlighted] our innovative popcorn brands closer to the top of the set, where they will be more visible to customers. Popcorn is getting recognition as a lighter and healthier snack alternative, so it makes sense to showcase it within the set."

Continued: Food-Prep Science