Jul 13, 2011 • By

In-store influence

When I’m grocery shopping, I often notice others walking at a quick, determined pace down the aisles with a list in hand, not giving much thought to how the products are arranged on the shelf or why one product catches their attention verses another.

But there are many General Mills employees who spend every day thinking about each aspect of the retail store experience.

2,000 of General Mills’ U.S. employees are dedicated to influencing the in-store shopping experience and to driving sustainable, profitable growth for General Mills and its customers.

Today during General Mills’ Investor Day presentations in Boston, Shawn O’Grady, senior vice president and president of Consumer Foods Sales, provided a rare peek behind the curtain at the interesting work of General Mills sales professionals.

Did you know?

-General Mills’ Consumer Foods Sales division works with more than 200 retail customers who operate 100,000 stores across the U.S.

-Traditional retailers (like Kroger and Stop and Shop) still represent a majority of our business, Supercenters (like Walmart and Target) now represent more than a quarter of our business, while club stores and alternative formats, such as drug, dollar, and natural and organic stores, now generate nearly 20 percent of all sales.

-A General Mills sales person typically has a decade of experience with the company.

-On average, General Mills sales people manage between 500 and 600 SKUs (stock-keeping units) per store across 25 different categories.

In addition to providing an overview of how we approach achieving growth with leading brands and industry-leading capabilities and tools, Shawn provided several great examples of how we uncover meaningful shopper insights and use them to give our customers a roadmap for sustainable category growth.

Shawn explained that most of General Mills’ retail customers select a manufacturer as “category captain” in each category of the store. The role of this category captain is to help grow overall category sales and profit, and to not focus only on the manufacturer’s brands. Within General Mills’ top 20 customers, we are the category captain in 75 percent of the categories in which we compete.

Shawn highlighted the following examples of how we use insights to drive success at the category, aisle and store levels.

The cereal aisle’s size and brand variety make it hard to shop, he said. After analyzing the cereal aisle in detail, our category management group recommended a new shelf set that grouped the largest brands, such as Cheerios, together to help the customer navigate the aisle. We also suggested a specific number of facings for each large brand to avoid out-of-stock products. The result? Cereal sales for the retail customers that adopted this new shelf set increased 4 percent, outpacing total category sales.

We also know that the dairy aisle is a leading driver of shopper traffic.

Last year we conducted a study to assess the true growth drivers of the dairy aisle, how consumers shop the category, and the cost and profitability of the sets for retailers, and we developed principles across the entire aisle. Strong innovation and insights have given both yogurt and the dairy section room to breathe and grow faster than the rest of the food and beverage category.

Editor’s note: Learn more about General Mills’ Consumer Foods Sales division by listening to Shawn O’Grady’s entire presentation, in the full Investor Day webcast on GeneralMills.com. You also can see the live tweets from all of the Investor Day presentations, with the hashtag #InvestorGIS.