The United States Potato Board's (USPB's) relationship with Roundy's Supermarkets began with an article I wrote for the August 2011 issue of our State of the Potato Category (SOPC) newsletter titled, "Putting the Power of Shopper Insights to Work." The SOPC article outlined the resources the USPB had to offer retailers in understanding shopping behaviors in the fresh potato category, and announced we were fielding a major new research effort that fall (i.e. USPB Potato Shopper Study).
Around this same time, Steve Kinishi at Roundy's had just moved to a newly created role-Vice President of Shopper Insights-to lead the new Consumer/Shopper Insights initiative. Steve had previously been Vice President of Produce for Roundy's, and my article struck a chord with him, given his previous and new roles. Steve contacted me to express his interest in hearing more about the USPB's insights, and we arranged a meeting.
Roundy's Supermarkets operates under five different retail banners across Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois, but none of them are called Roundy's. Their five supermarkets are Pick `n Save, Copps, Rainbow Foods, Metro Market and Mariano's.
At our meeting, I took Steve through a full Retail Outreach presentation. We focused on category trends, Best Practices and category business review. We also reviewed the findings from our just-completed Potato Shopper Study.
I also shared how the USPB works in partnership with selected retailers and their potato suppliers to help them build their potato category sales through efforts like our Collaborative Category Optimization (CCO) program and our Test & Learn program.
Kinishi was very receptive to what I had to say and offered the full support of his department in backing our efforts. In addition, he offered to approach the Roundy's produce team and secure their agreement for partnering with the USPB.
We later put together a follow-up meeting with both the Produce and Shopper Insights departments at Roundy's. In this meeting, Roundy's officially agreed to participate as a partner in the USPB's CCO program, as well as providing us with access to their shopper loyalty card data for a deep-dive analysis.
The analysis of Roundy's loyalty data uncovered an astounding fact: although some 84 percent of U.S. households purchase fresh potatoes (per USPB research and Spire loyalty data), some Roundy's banners had household penetration levels (i.e. households that were purchasing their fresh potatoes at Roundy's) as low as 44 percent and none higher than 58 percent. This meant Roundy's could increase their fresh potato sales by 50 percent or more-just by getting customers who were already shopping in Roundy's stores to purchase their potato needs there.
I shared these findings with the Roundy's team, along with our recommendations on how to react to these learnings and increase their potato category sales. Our three-part strategy was:
1) Review and fine-tune their category assortment to make sure Roundy's was offering the potato SKUs their shoppers wanted most.
2) Increase shoppers' awareness of the wide selection of potatoes Roundy's offered, and give them more ideas for using the potatoes they purchased there.
3) Improve Roundy's promotional efficiency for the potato category, driving more incremental volume from potato features ads while also increasing awareness per point No. 2.
During our discussions around the recommendation of "giving shoppers more ideas for using potatoes," Roundy's shared they had a corporate initiative to focus on the breakfast occasion and wondered if we might be able to bridge the two objectives. This gave rise to our suggestion of a Test & Learn program: Could giving shoppers new ideas specifically around "fresh potatoes for breakfast" drive increased category sales?
The net result was a T&L program conducted in 24 Pick `n Save stores during August-September 2012, where a rotation of 16 different potato breakfast recipe cards were merchandised adjacent to eggs, bacon and breakfast sausage. When we analyzed the results, the test locations had significantly outperformed a control group of stores, achieving potato category dollars sales 6.9 percent above the control group and seeing dollars sales of eggs-bacon-sausage also increase by 5.7 percent.
We worked with Roundy's to add several new potato offerings to their standard assortment (objective No. 1). We also persuaded Roundy's to address objective No. 3-more efficient promotional activity-by heightening the appeal of their feature ads; specifically, by using imagery of prepared potato dishes rather than photos of raw bulk or bagged potatoes. This simple change-using images in part supplied from the USPB's recipe library-had a dramatic impact on how their ads performed! Incremental volume for the ads using images of prepared potato dishes, as determined by Nielsen Perishables Group, was more than twice the average incremental volume for their previous "raw" feature ads.
As for objective No. 2-creating more awareness of and appreciation for Roundy's potato selection-the strategy we recommended was to stage a high-profile, month-long potato extravaganza.a "Potatopalooza."
At Roundy's urging, the USPB reached out to Roundy's potato suppliers, as well as the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA) to enlist their support for this month-long program. Alsum Farms, Bushman's and Okray Family Farms agreed to donate time and resources to the program, and RPE contributed product for the four Saturday parking lot events.
The WPVGA agreed to co-sponsor the program, and shared the investment for banners and stanchion signs to be displayed in all stores during May 2013. WPVGA also donated prizes and Wisconsin potato chips for each of the Saturday events, and Dana Rady, Director of Promotions, Communication and Consumer Education, was on hand at each Wisconsin location (three of the four events) to personally lend a hand.
During the month of Potatopalooza, Roundy's.
Featured multiple potato items in their circular ads every week.
Promoted the program on the websites of all five of their retail banners, creating a home page splash and driving visitors to a special section with potato recipes, information and more.
Directed all stores to build a potato "barge" display, and merchandise the potato display with the banners and signs created especially for the program.
Brought in six new potato items during the course of the program.
Created added awareness and excitement by holding events in store parking lots in the Wisconsin cities of Sun Prairie, Stevens Point and Mequon, and also in Roseville, Minn., on four successive Saturdays in May. The USPB, suppliers and the WPVGA teamed up to talk potatoes and hand out recipes to Roundy's shoppers. They conducted several zany games and contests like Tater Toss, Tiny Tater Test and Tater Time Trials.
Nielsen Perishables Group collected and analyzed Roundy's sales data, and the Roundy's loyalty card information for the month of Potatopalooza. The final recap was presented to Roundy's management in late July. The work with Roundy's has established a new standard for retailer participation in the USPB's partnership programs, as well as created a template for industry members and state potato organizations to use in their own marketing efforts!