Kraft Foods Scores with ‘Wall-to-Wall’ Strategy

New Kraft Foods Logo

New Kraft Foods Logo

SF Comment: “Back to the Future” – Where at one time direct field forces were in vogue… during the last 10 years the store has been neglected by retailers and manufacturers alike. Now getting close to the Shopper in the last three feet of the sale is where it’s at. Major manufacturers are now re-investing in this key element of the marketing mix.

By Dale Buss – CPG Matters

In the low-margin grocery business, every one percent – of anything – counts for a lot. By that measure, Kraft Foods’ new strategy for deploying sales reps in stores has been a big success. Called Wall-to-Wall, it has single-handedly boosted sales by more than one percent at the 16,000 stores where Kraft has rolled it out.

In fact, after only two years into the program in which individual reps now handle more brands and fewer stores than before, one top Kraft executive is ready to declare Wall-to-Wall a key piece of the company’s retailing arsenal.

“It’s become an important piece of our overall strategy,” Darryl Brown, Kraft’s senior vice president of retail sales, told CPGmatters. “We’re happy with our progress, and now we’re going to focus on optimizing it. Wall-to-Wall is a weapon that we can use to help the business long-term.

Wall-to-Wall is as simple as it is effective. Basically, under Wall-to-Wall, a Kraft sales rep can be at a store every day and is responsible for almost the entire portfolio of Kraft products, ranging from Oreo cookies to Kraft salad dressings to Oscar Mayer bacon. “The beauty of it is that reps are in the stores three to seven days a week, so they’re truly able to establish relationships in the stores that enable them to drive incremental sales,” Brown explained.
kraftcollage

Before Wall-to-Wall, Kraft maintained three separate organizations of store reps. One group mainly handled Nabisco cookie and snack products and would be in any given store three to five times a week. The second group handled the rest of Kraft’s dry-goods portfolio and were in stores only every two to four weeks. “It’s hard to sell incrementally when you’re only showing up every 30 days,” Brown noted.

So, about two years ago, Kraft collapsed the barriers between those two groups and created a new Wall-to-Wall organization that now handles more than half of the total of 30,000 stores with which Kraft does business. (Kraft’s third group of reps still represents Kraft’s frozen-pizza brands separately.)

“We are in every aisle, and Wall-to-Wall was an opportunity to give one face to the [retailer] customer, so they could relate to ‘one Kraft’ coming in,” Brown said. “Once we gave them one face to go to, the intent was to have that one person become almost a consultant to store management to help them piece together their product portfolio.”

Immediately, Kraft noticed that the Wall-to-Wall reorganization provided a big lift in three areas: easing out-of-stock situations, enhancing special in-store promotions, and ensuring overall optimization of the merchandising of Kraft brands in customer-specific ways.

“Our Number One issue is out-of-stocks,” Brown said. “But now because we’re in stores more frequently, we’re able to assist in that area.”

In promotions, he said, Wall-to-Wall reps “can more easily partner with private-label or other [brand] partners in the store to create in-store excitement.”

For example, during a six-week period spanning late summer and early fall last year, Wall-to-Wall reps worked with a huge account – one can infer it was Wal-Mart Stores, from Brown’s remarks – to set up a special aisle filled with Kraft brands. Sections were themed “Breakfast,” “Lunch,” “Dinner” and “Snacking” and clustered Kraft products appropriately as well as complementary private-label and other brands.

“For instance, with ‘Dinner,’ we don’t have a brand that would provide a protein at the center of the plate, so we leveraged in-store brands and competitors to do that,” Brown explained. Kraft also worked with the retailer to boost the presence of its brands in other areas of the store during that period – ably honchoed by Wall-to-Wall reps and assisted by other Kraft reps who provided merchandising labor.

Overall, the Wall-to-Wall reorganization has allowed Kraft to “optimize our in-store locations as far as display activity is concerned, and leveraging our brands across the entire store,” Brown said. Kraft is able “to help retailers get better compliance on advertising activity that supports our brands,” he said.

Of course, the progress driven by Wall-to-Wall has come at a price: higher labor costs. For one thing, Kraft has boosted compensation for reps who enter the Wall-to-Wall program because of the richer mix of skills and higher levels of training required for them to become successful.

“The old warehouse reps were really focused on selling, not as much on merchandising,” Brown said. “Now we need people who can understand the complexities of all our product categories and bring them to life to make them sell. We’ve got them representing multiple categories and multiple meal-usage occasions that we weren’t able to bring to life before.”

Both new and existing Kraft sales reps have been drafted for Wall-to-Wall. “We’ve done a very nice job of being able to source new talent,” Brown said. “But most importantly, we’ve been investing significant dollars in upgrading our current set of talent in classroom training and on-the-job training to get the salespeople up to speed.”

Technology is being upgraded as well. Kraft is providing Wall-to-Wall reps with new tablet PCs that allow them to make fancy presentations to store managers on-site. “They can sell on the fly,” Brown said. “They can walk up and down the aisles and bring their data to life with graphics and stories on the tablets. These reps need to be able to understand the categories, leverage the technology and talk to store reps – all in a minute or two.”

So far, so good. Wall-to-Wall has been consistently boosting sales by one percent or more across locations where Kraft has implemented it.

“And it’s even more strategic than that, because Wall-to-Wall is focused on businesses that mean the most to our portfolio,” Brown said. “We’ve delivered on expectations. The company has been very happy with the contribution we’re making.”

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~ by sjfrenda on July 1, 2009.

One Response to “Kraft Foods Scores with ‘Wall-to-Wall’ Strategy”

  1. There are many out there who feel the Wall-To Wall efforts are not impactful and just smoke and mirrors. I am not one of them. This effort is working, and Kraft like many excellent companies is asking “how can we make it better?” They are all about accountability from top down and bottom up. Look for more great things to come….and as they say “”Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” It will be interesting to see if another CPG does the same.

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