Earlier this year, the Southern California Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Council hosted a kick-off luncheon in Commerce, California, featuring an industry panel discussion on how to increase frozen and refrigerated food sales in 2018. Panelists included Jim Amen with Super A, Margie Bravo with Nestle USA, Rich Gillmore with Gelson’s, Chris Linskey with Super King, Mike O’Donnell with Supervalu and Steve Worthington with Supervalu. Below are insights from Linskey and Amen. Full coverage of the event can be found in the April edition of The Shelby Report of the West.
Super King Edits Frozen Department Down To Fast‑Moving Lines
Chris Linskey, VP of marketing and merchandising for Super King, a seven-store grocer in Southern California, was asked about frozen food marketing at the stores, as well as key frozen categories where he sees potential growth.
Linskey likened the frozen food department to a player on a football team with a smaller but still valuable position.
“You’ve got different players that play different positions, and they perform different tasks,” he said. “Specifically, frozen food in Super King plays a very interesting role. I liken it to a placekicker or a punter; that player may not get in on a lot of plays, but the plays it does get in on, it’s very important.”
Super King is known for its fresh departments, like produce and meat, because its customer base still cooks meals at home to a large extent.
“You can walk through any Super King on any given day and you’re going to hear English, Spanish, Armenian, Arabic, Farsi, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese—you have this very eclectic group of ethnicities that right now all pretty much cook at home, so we overindex way into the fresh side,” he said.
Because of that, Super King’s frozen food department does not have as much space allocated as most grocers. In fact, it last year remerchandised its frozen food departments, eliminating 225 items and adding just 70 back.
“The strategy there was give more space to the things that sell, and sales and margin both went up,” he said. “The ‘losers’ in that remerchandising were primarily entrees. The things that grew and that continue to do well are the ingredient-type products: phyllo dough, puff pastry, frozen vegetables, international frozen vegetables.
“The decisions we made were pretty good,” he said.
Other frozen categories at Super King that are “fairly well developed” include ice cream, novelties…and ice, he said, eliciting laughter from the audience.
But he believes that they could do an even better job if the kinds of analytics that are used in grocery department meetings—from its frequent shopper card (Royal Rewards) and other data—also were used in frozen department meetings.
“On the grocery side we’re very collaborative (but) I can’t think of a meeting I was in in the frozen category where we were offering you the use of that data to sell more stuff, so I extend that invitation,” Linskey said. “What we need to do in the future is use that information to try and develop the category further. Think pallets, not cases. Come talk to us and we’ll see where it takes us.”
Amen: It’s Imperative To Get FSIs To Consumers Digitally
The question for Jim Amen, president of Super A Foods, was: “What is your strategy to stay on top of the ever-changing environment in the frozen food category in order to remain competitive in this market?”
He said Super A has plans to try a lot of different things in the next couple of years to stay competitive. One of these is finding a new way, besides the print newspaper, to get FSIs into the hands of consumers.
“So we’re in the process of putting a Super A app together,” he said, working with a couple of FSI coupon companies. This will allow the consumer to pull up the app and access perhaps 200 or 300 coupons.
“And if we can flag those items in front of the frozen food items to get the person to try, it will really help,” he said.
He also believes grocers can perhaps gain ground with consumers by reminding them of how much cheaper it is to eat at home than in a restaurant.
“It’s very important for us as an industry to get that story out to our consumers, especially to the young consumers—the Millennials of the world that don’t mind spending $5 to go to Starbucks and get a cup of coffee when with a coffeemaker at home they could make it for pennies,” he said. “We need to get that information to consumers and get them to do those things.”
Grocers also have to embrace social media, whether that is comfortable for them or not.
In the last year, Super A has gotten into Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, “and it’s very important,” Amen said. The company has about 70,000 Facebook followers now, and he urged the vendors to “help us with that—go over the programs with us and put your products on our Facebook page, that show the consumer how much money they can save, and what a partner they could be with us.”
Amen also urged the vendors to come and visit him.
“When you put a deal on in Supervalu and there’s no street number attached, I still need you to come to see me, and to give me a piece of paper for me to put in my ad book, so I can realize the EP ones, the EP twos, the programs that Mike (O’Donnell) is talking about.
“A lot of salespeople love email; they don’t want to come and see you in person…I know it’s easy to stay at home in your pajamas and send emails all day (laughter). People like me really like to get to see you and talk to you, talk about your family, and have a relationship. Because I think we can do a lot more business that way.”