SAN FRANCISCO -- Del Monte Foods here has equipped 34 of its zone managers and sales managers with a customized software system designed to let them retrieve business information over the Internet.
Del Monte is the first grocery manufacturer to use the system, which is called SalesNet, said Chuck Aldredge, vice president of strategic initiatives. Installation of the software was completed in late January and early February. "We were up and running as of about Feb. 7," he said.
SalesNet was codeveloped by Del Monte with A.C. Nielsen, Schaumburg, Ill. It is designed to deliver prerun, fact-based selling reports using the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet program.
Authorized users access the Nielsen/Del Monte SalesNet home page via an Internet service provider, using Netscape software. They enter a password, then select custom reports that are automatically downloaded into Excel on their own personal computers.
"The system keeps a log-in profile for every user, which defines what information they can look at," said Mike Ellsworth, development manager of advanced technology for Nielsen, who oversees the project.
The central computer, or server, for Del Monte's SalesNet resides at a Nielsen site, Ellsworth explained. The information is generated from Nielsen's data base. SalesNet is based largely on a Nielsen product called BrokerNet, which was introduced just over a year ago, said Ellsworth. "That was our first attempt to use the World Wide Web to deliver information and reports that brokers previously had to send on paper."
Currently about a half-dozen brokers use the system actively, he estimated. Since that time, Nielsen has also pitched the concept to several brand marketers, he said. According to a Del Monte internal newsletter published by Aldredge's group, SalesNet installation was carried out by a joint Nielsen/Del Monte development team, which met the field people in various locations around the country. Several other installations were handled via telephone and modem.
The Del Monte field people were already equipped with portable PCs, which they use for category management, sales presentations and other purposes.
Aldredge said the company expects to roll the system out to its more than 50 food brokers once the internal organization gains a level of comfort with the new system. That may not take long.
"The system is extremely simple. It is designed to give each field person exactly what they need. The reports and data structures are completely customized for Del Monte," said Cleighton Leong, senior corporate account manager for Nielsen's Western region.
Beyond delivering syndicated data, the SalesNet system could also be employed to deliver sales messages, household panel data, micromarketing data, even an internal newsletter, Ellsworth added.
Aldredge said using Internet access was a more economical and simpler alternative to customizing a proprietary system.