Many executives in the food business, whether on the retail or vendor side, await the annual emergence of Cannondale Associates' PoweRanking survey with some eagerness. Some even see their fortunes in a company nudged one way or another because of it. The latest version of the survey hit the street last week.
This year's edition of the survey was the product of the opinions of 250 manufacturers and retailers, each voting for the other in certain areas of performance. The study has been criticized as being little more than a beauty contest, but in reality it benchmarks the changing opinions important trading partners have of one another, which is why it wins the attention it does.
What are those areas of performance the study assesses? For retailers, they include an assessment of clarity of company strategy, store-branding efforts, the quality of buying and category management teams, the quality of consumer-directed marketing efforts, the overall ease of doing business and others.
Manufacturers are assessed on criteria such as the clarity of company strategy, the importance of their brands to consumers, an assessment of sales forces, whether marketing programs are innovative, the quality of supply chain and category management efforts and others.
Let's cut the results of the most recent survey in a couple of different ways to see what we see.
The easiest way to see results is to look at the composite ranking of the several criteria. And when it comes to retailers, there's no real contest: Wal-Mart Stores wears the crown. That company's ranking is 72.6%, up 6.4% over the previous year. The runner-up is Safeway at 28.4%. Others showing significant improvement are Target, up 9.6% to 28.2%; and Costco, up 2.6% to 11.4%. Other companies showing upward movement were H.E. Butt, Publix and Meijer. Those trending down were Safeway, Kroger, Wegmans and Ahold.
It's not entirely good news to conventional supermarket operators that the companies showing the greatest upswing, by far, are alternate-format operators. Even those conventional operators who showed some improvement did so by tiny amounts, amounts dwarfed by the increases registered by alternate players. Some more work on trade relations needs be done.
The same ranking for manufacturers shows Kraft in the lead, at 34.9%, despite a drop of 0.3%, with Procter & Gamble close behind at 33.1%, on a 2.2% drop. Companies making significant upward strides are General Mills, up 2.6% to 19.6%; Coca-Cola, up 1.9% to 15.4%; Pepsi-Cola, up 1.6% to 13.8%; and Campbell Soup, up 3.8% to 7.7%.
One of the study components of great interest to those of us in the publishing business has to do with how clearly manufacturers' messages are being conveyed to their constituencies. Big winners there are General Mills, up 2% to 19.9%; Pepsi-Cola, up 2.7% to 10.3%; Campbell Soup, up 6.3% to 9.3%; and Kellogg's, up 4.2% to 7.6%. Overall, the winner in that category is P&G at 34%, closely followed by Kraft at 33%. General Mills' improved ranking puts it at third.
Companies that score well in this ranking are those that project to the industry a clear message with consistency and frequency. That's not always easy, so it's no small feat that General Mills and Pepsi were able to score gains while in the midst of acquisition-assimilation activities.