Jockeying for consumer attention

by Keith Nunes
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KANSAS CITY — This past week, ConAgra Foods Inc. issued its earnings for the fourth quarter and full year. ConAgra struggled and cited a reduction in promotional efficiency as one reason. It would seem increased competition for promotional space at retail is forcing consumer packaged goods companies to become more creative in their merchandising and promotional efforts.

Tom McGough, the president of ConAgra Foods’ Consumer Foods, segment, broke the issues his company had during the year into three pieces.

“In frozen, there has been an increase of overall competitive activity,” he said “We have bolstered our support. We’ve been competitive in our programs and our market share, primarily in the premium and value segments, with Marie Callender, Bertolli and Banquet, for the fiscal year are up both in terms of volume and dollar share. We feel like we’ve struck the right balance there and those our businesses that we will continue to invest in.”

Secondly, McGough said in such a tough competitive environment companies have to identify ways to “break through.”

“There are two ways that we’re doing that,” he said. “On Chef Boyardee, we’ve seen a lot of concurrent merchandising. We’ve traditionally enjoyed exclusivity in our events.
“Throughout the year, we’ve experimented with different approaches to get a higher lift. We had some very positive impact with that with some customers in Q4. We’re going to be implementing that on a much broader basis throughout the fiscal year, and we will see a better impact from that.”
Finally, McGough said it is about ideas.

“Where we do really, really well is when we bring those consumer insights, particularly around meal solution and easy-to-execute solutions for retailers, we win. We see that on Hunt’s, Ro Tel, many items in our portfolio.”

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