Big River Solutions advises brands on surviving the supermarket SKU cull

Big River Solutions creates and delivers pragmatic solutions in shopper marketing and category development for forward-thinking FMCG brands.

Christine Edwards, director at shopper marketing and category development specialist, Big River Solutions, gives FMCG brands on surviving the supermarket SKU cull

A new reality confronts the oil tankers that are today’s supermarket chains – they cannot afford to stock vast ranges of products. As Tesco’s delisting programme starts in earnest, is this the moment to see if your brand is sufficiently resilient to withstand the intense scrutiny that will come the way of every product?

Around 30,000 products will be culled from Tesco’s listings as CEO Dave Lewis acts to streamline the business and compete more effectively with discounters such as Aldi and Lidl. The latest big brand to join New Covent Garden, Schweppes and Rachel’s Organic is Kingsmill – a product range that many would have thought sufficiently popular to persist. And the parade of the rejected is guaranteed to grow.

It is likely the other big supermarket chains will carry out their own range reviews and the selection of brands available will inevitably decline dramatically. Retailers will look for more creative ways to use the space that will become available in bigger stores – examples coming to light include Sainsbury’s inviting Argos to open concessions in their branches.

The shopper – who typically chooses from around 100 products – has become bewildered by the extraordinary selection of everyday products available. Taking pasta as an example, where there were two or three options available 20 years ago, a visit to the pasta aisle of any major supermarket reveals a tsunami of options. It makes a lot of sense that supermarkets will alter, optimise or reject products in a quest that will not only maximise their bottom lines but will also make the shopper’s life easier. They may use range as a way to differentiate themselves from the pack.

So, what can you do to ensure that your brand is one that the supermarkets will continue to stock?

“It’s an over-simplification to think that retailers will only focus on the products they sell the most of and which make them the most money,” said Christine Edwards, director at Big River Solutions.  “It is also dangerous to consider that, as category leader, your brand is one that will automatically endure. Suppliers will need to robustly justify their place on the supermarket shelf.

“Brands that want to survive the supermarket cull need to invest in data that validates their worth to the category.  It is essential to provide insights into your shoppers’ behaviour and develop a robust marketing plan that will deliver real benefit for shoppers and the supermarket. Understanding the shopper and consumer enables you to demonstrate the positive effect of keeping your product on shelf and the role that your brand plays with those consumers and shoppers.

“Suppliers also need to demonstrate solid new product development plans that will innovate and so ‘grow the pie’ that is their category. The plans need be meticulously researched and shown to identify shoppers’ needs based on trends and insight.

“We would suggest that suppliers carry out an immediate critical assessment of their range, before the supermarkets call the shots.  Now is a very good moment to invest in developing a strategy that will result in benefits for a retail chain – more shoppers, more visits, more money spent in the category.”