ORLANDO, Fla. -- Food brokers who practice category management and focus on delivering consumer value will be the ones who survive and prosper in the future, according to officials at a leading brokerage house.
"We have to become category experts so we can eventually be relied on for some very good and accurate information to help category managers make decisions on the various strategies of their individual categories," said Jim Eisenhart, chairman of Eisenhart & Associates, St. Louis.
Eisenhart and Tim Vicente, the firm's group vice president of sales and marketing, spoke at the Apollo Users Group International conference sponsored by Information Resources Inc. here last month. "We have to find a way to penetrate each other's organizations and really co-create and manage these consumer-focused plans," said Eisenhart. "The critical point here is that it has to be interactive. We've got a long way to go in this area, in my opinion, but we are really gaining a good head of steam."
According to Eisenhart, the goal is to understand category expertise and to bring that to the customer base. It's a transition from measuring "case sales only" to being "profitable franchise builders."
Eisenhart predicted good times ahead for brokers who become good students of category management. "Brokers are really excited about category management because until now brokers had a really difficult time trying to quantify the value-added resources they had been performing over many years," he said.
"For years we have been providing a lot of services and activities for manufacturers that frankly have been questionable in the eyes of some of the customers and retailers -- because they think they can provide some of the services we provide, maybe in a more efficient manner," he said.
"Category management is a real opportunity to create and quantify our value as a broker. I think that what that will do in the whole distribution system is very good for the brokers long term," Eisenhart said.
"Internally our company has identified category management as a real interactive broker tool by taking a consumer focus that category management represents and placing that focus at the very core of every activity that we are performing. "We think it is going to allow us to have our people marching to the same drum beat a lot quicker," he added.