Elit Rowland talks to Kieran South about the opportunity for oats in convenience retail and portable porridge in foodservice
ER: How have you improved service to wholesalers?
KS So much is changing in wholesale right now, so we’ve spent a lot of time listening and learning. Some of the key messages we got back were that wholesalers want smaller case sizes, better profit on return, improved distribution, more channel-specific innovation and increased investment in field sales.
How have you responded?
We’ve done a lot to change our business. The latest example is the launch of a smaller case size for Quaker Oats: the So Simple range is now available in packs of five (previously 10) with a price-mark of £2.39. At the moment, wholesalers are also running a promotion on it, whereby retail customers can make up to 40% POR.
How about your field sales team? Any consolidation?
We know that some suppliers have had to consolidate resources to the channel, but we’ve gone the other way and increased the people in our account management and field sales teams. We have more than 140 field sales reps covering wholesalers, independent retailers and foodservice customers. They make 300,000 customer visits a year.
How big is the opportunity in breakfast?
Bigger than many people realise: one in two Brits eats porridge and a quarter of the nation eats it every morning. But breakfast is an opportunity that sits across both retail and foodservice. Hot cereal has doubled in sales in the past five years, driven by consumers looking to grab a healthy breakfast on-the-go. We think portable solutions are a big opportunity.
So how are you tailoring your offering to suit all customers?
We have tailored propositions for grocery, foodservice and on-trade. For instance, with Quaker Oats, price-marks are not suitable for foodservice, so we offer a 3kg ‘back of house’ tub for caterers, as well as individual Oats So Simple porridge pots that consumers can grab on the move – perfect for cafés and coffee shops.
What’s your biggest achievement in wholesale?
We were voted the number one supplier to the channel by wholesalers that took part in the Advantage Group Survey 2013, which captures anonymous feedback. It’s the first time we’ve been ranked number one and I’m really proud – it’s a testament to the listening we’ve done and the changes we’ve made within the channel.
There’s still a lot we can still do to improve the way we work with wholesalers, but it means we can keep investing – because what we’re doing is working.
What are the opportunities for wholesalers?
At the moment, only one in five impulse retailers are stocking Oat So Simple, which is the second biggest total cereal brand, behind Weetabix, so the opportunity to grow sales in convenience retail is big.
We are working with customers on lots of projects, one of which is an automated weather forecast system that will send retailers a message when the temperature is expected to drop, prompting them to order more hot cereals. We are trialling this at the moment with the support of a number of wholesalers.
What advice would you give to wholesalers?
The ‘good’ wholesalers we see are taking advantage of tailored propositions for different customer groups – one size no longer fits all.
I would encourage wholesalers to keep giving us feedback and challenging what we do – after all, this is how we develop solutions that really work.