ATLANTA -- Wegmans Food Markets is in the process of moving its soft-drink aisle from the end of the shopping pattern to a middle aisle.
The change in aisle location is an effort to improve the shopability of the category, according to Wegmans and Coca-Cola officials. It is being implemented partially as a result of a category-management partnership between Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans and Coca-Cola USA here, along with Coca-Cola's local bottler. Some specifics of the partnership were discussed last month at the Joint Industry Efficient Consumer Response conference here.
"Historically, Wegmans' soft drinks were in the last aisle. We learned through this that soft drinks should be up further in the shopping pattern," said Lenny Korn, account manager at Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Rochester, N.Y.
"Now with every store they are opening or remodeling, the soft-drink aisle is usually in the middle," he said, adding that more display space has also been added to the aisle.
Tony Caterino, category manager at Wegmans, said having soft drinks in the last aisle of the shopping pattern posed problems.
"By that time the shopper has her cart full and she would have to throw a 2-liter bottle or 12-pack of cans on top of everything," he said. "At that point you might buy only what you need or not buy anything at all. So getting it into the cart as early as possible gives people more room in the cart without damaging anything below," he explained.
In the ongoing partnership, Coca-Cola and Wegmans decided to share information relating to category management and shopper data. Market-basket data from Wegmans' frequent-shopper club card program were gathered from each store. The information was broken down into 10.5 million lines of data about carbonated soft drink Universal Product Codes by flavor, brand and package, along with demographic profiles.
"Our consumers were divided into very light, light, moderate and heavy users. Heavy consumers purchased over 2,500 ounces per year. They purchased a soft drink almost every time they came to a Wegmans store," Caterino said.
Wegmans discovered that light and very light buyers enter the category by purchasing Coca-Cola and Wegmans private-label W Pop brand products.
"We found that the consumers enter the category with 2 liter, and as their consumption improves they begin purchasing multipack packages of cans. We also found that consumers enter the category with sugar colas and move their consumption into diet colas and/or lemon/lime," Caterino said. "All of these insights were used to improve sales and profitability of the soft-drink category at Wegmans."
Coca-Cola had been heavily involved with category management since the early 1990s, while Wegmans began embracing category management in late 1995, said Rick Morgan, manager of category management implementation for Coca-Cola.
"Coca-Cola did some research on how consumers shop the supermarket. We found consumers have shopping occasions and usage occasions. This provided a consumer-based rationale for how best to merchandise, promote and profitably grow the category," Morgan explained.
Morgan said Coca-Cola learned that consumers prefer different packages and products depending upon usage occasion. Shoppers may pick up a 12-pack in the "classic stock-up situation" of buying for future consumption, while they will buy a cold can or bottle for immediate or in the car consumption.
"We learned that we could grow the size of the category by satisfying the consumer's desire for immediate consumption. So we decided to increase the availability of cold bottles and cans in all of our stores," Caterino said.
Morgan said, "We found out there are two general classifications of shopping trips. There is a fill-in trip, representing about 31% of all shopping trips, and then there is the replenishment trip, which is about 69%. These trips were then broken down further. On a stop-in trip they are looking for things like what is for dinner tonight."
Caterino said studying the information allowed Wegmans to adjust its merchandising and ad features. Initially Wegmans chose to concentrate on its heavy consumption users and loyal Wegmans shoppers, but the chain also used a second strategy to target light and very light soft-drink category users in an effort to further build sales.
"We learned that by manipulating package, flavor, brand and pricing we could improve performance with non-core buyers and light and very light users," he said.
Caterino said the hardest part of the category-management partnership has been sifting through the raw data to make it presentable for the stores.
"We are just getting to the point now where we are going to the stores and selling them on different things. We had been implementing different equipment, pricing, assortment mix, aisle location and display locations. We have been doing all of the activity and are now at the point where we are going to the stores to tell them where we are at, what we're looking to do and why we are making these changes," he said.