“The concept is pretty simple, but one which folks haven’t looked much into or thought about: what category or products naturally fit together? Not just because people eat them together, but because they buy them together; sales are strongly correlated with each other; and they appear in shoppers’ baskets more often than others,” said Jonna Parker, director of account services at Nielsen Perishables Group.
“Those are really the products that have a great potential to be merchandized together and advertised together,” she told BakeryandSnacks.com.
Chips and pretzels well-connected
Nielsen Perishables Group has compiled data on the most ‘connected’ products according to what is bought on the same trip, similar buyer demographics and sales correlation and trends. The research firm has connectivity data for 257 categories across total store, including c-stores, grocery, mass and club retailers.
“Our research was really designed to give folks a way to quickly find their partners, and snacks like chips and pretzels are a really good example because they’re actually one of the most-connected categories in the entire store,” Parker said.
Chips and pretzels have strong connections to 137 other categories, including dairy cheese, crackers, cookies and fresh grapes, among others.
However, she said the category was also weakly connected to more familiar pairing items like deli dips and spreads which was an interesting jolt for manufacturers.
Hard data must drive partnerships
Parker said manufacturers and retailers very often guessed what product pairs would and wouldn’t work; guesswork that was not the way forward.
“If people were doing pairings or connections that weren’t ‘we own the same company’ or ‘the retailer told us to’ and were based on what’s in the same basket, that’s good research,” she said.
“…We need more of connectivity, but do it data-based because you will find things that surprise you.”
Chips and pretzels’ top connection, for example, was dairy cheese. “Whether it is chunks or snacking cheese – sometimes people eat them together, but there’s a really strong correlation for the sales and being in the basked together; they share a really wide variety of shoppers,” she explained.
Similarly chips and pretzels were strongly connected to fresh grapes – a growing category, she said.
“Fresh grapes are showing up everywhere from convenience stores to Starbucks and it shows there’s a lot of interest in fresh. Don’t just think about bananas as your new partner.”
Strengthening weaker links
Despite some clear strong connections for the snack category, Parker said there was also scope to strengthen weaker connections that had potential, like chips and deli dips or fresh avocados.
“I do think the chip and avocado one is interesting because there is a lot of growth in fresh avocado. They’re in the produce section and a lot of retailers really promote them heavily and I actually think they go quite naturally with chips. A lot of people buy avocados to go on things like snacks and chips, maybe in a sandwich with chips, and yet we’ve never had a conversation about it.”
Similarly with deli dips, she said there were opportunities for retailers to offer coupons on snacks when buying dips, for example.
“There is an example of a coupon offer at Publix where if you are buying chips and pretzels you get a free Pepsi. Well, why not do that with hummus or retail-owned deli dips? The retailer is going to want that promotion and the chips and pretzel companies get that one opportunity to maybe put that coupon in the deli and have people walk over to the snack aisle.”
Driving growth and maintaining retail space
Parker said such partnerships proved invaluable in bolstering sales but also in securing all-important slots in an increasingly competitive retail environment. “Connectivity even goes beyond partnerships; it’s as much about your value.”
For example, she said if chips and pretzels lost an important retail slot it could have a ripple effect on other store categories, from dairy cheese to fresh produce.
“Chips and pretzels have certainly not had a great go at things – they’ve not been in much sales growth… But you can say ‘did you realize Mr. Retailer if you support me and give me my space, you might be able to help these other categories too?’”
“…Retailers are all trying to grow bigger baskets, differentiate and create that loyalty and value and what better way than realizing ‘hey, you’re not eating your milk with your pretzels, but you buy those items commonly and so they’re important categories to have’,” she said.