Editor’s Note: Marie Clapper is executive producer for “Focus on Suppliers.”
How does a supplier with products in cans, bottles and boxes succeed in a kingdom focused on fresh?
That question ran through my mind as Katie Holley, ConAgra Foods’ vice president of grocery sales to Walmart, began her interview with host Neile Jones during a “Focus on Suppliers” show highlighting food.
Fresh is what today’s consumer wants, so it is the direction food is headed. While that may be a sobering thought to some shelf-stable suppliers, Holley sees it as an exciting opportunity.
She recalls sitting at Walmart’s Year Beginning Meeting in 2015 and realizing, “Here I am, a supplier of center-of-store brands. I’m trying to be relevant. I want to stay connected to Walmart’s strategy. And I know if Walmart is focused on fresh, it’s because fresh is the trend. So that means my brands must relate to fresh.”
First, she examined ConAgra’s past successes with recipes that combined canned and fresh foods: Reddi-Wip whipped cream and berries, for example, and “Rockin’ Guacamole,” which features RoTel tomatoes and avocados.
Such combos proved powerful. Shoppers loved them. Canned goods made them easy. Fresh ingredients made them healthier. And they tasted great — making an inexperienced cook a hero to her family and guests. Holley was encouraged.
Next, Holley turned to her shoppers and listened hard.
Her research team asked consumers why they were spending more on food prepared outside the home than food prepped and eaten in their own kitchens. She learned three important things: tastes are changing, people want more fresh food options and — a real aha moment — knowledge of cooking has diminished.
The solution? The “Yes! You Can” campaign (foodyoulove.com/yesyoucan). Its recipes combine something canned with something fresh. All the ingredients are easy to find, and the number of ingredients isn’t overwhelming. The instructions are easy to follow and require little, if any, technique. Shoppers can find them online in a traditional presentation (words) or in under-one-minute videos (similar to Tasty videos). The videos move fast and have lively music underscoring the step-by-steps. Social media and bloggers are part of the adventure, too, bringing in all ages, as the videos attract those shoppers who don’t read English easily.
After the taping, I cornered Katie because I wanted to know more. “When we started,” she said, “we called this program ‘Yes! I Can,’ but our focus groups said, ‘Don’t use the word I. Be more endearing and encouraging. Be helpful. Use You.’ So we did, and it has worked beautifully. We give people something basic they’re not afraid to try, and in the process they become, well, they become cooks.”
As America reinvents eating, ConAgra is engaging fresh across its portfolio, including refrigerated and frozen. Reddi-Wip, for example, now offers a recipe that combines with yogurt and mini pie shells, making an instant cream pie.
And so, we see that fresh and canned certainly can live happily ever after in the kingdom of RetailLand.
Coming Up on ‘Focus on Suppliers’
The show regularly broadcasts weekly on KNWA-NBC at 6:30 p.m. Saturdays and 5 a.m. Sundays.
August 20: Health and Beauty
Dress for Success – Virginia Germann
Menasha – Kerry Bailey
Professional golfer Morgan Pressel
Rock Your Hair – Michael O’Rourke
Saatchi & Saatchi X – Jessica Hendrix
Sam’s Club – Tracey Brown
Vi-Jon – Darcy Meier
Walmart – Alex Hurd
The new season begins Oct.1, covering topics that include innovation, “retail-tainment,” toys, pets and more.
Full episodes and extended interviews can be found online at YouTube.com/c/8thandWalton
and Vimeo.com/FocusOnSuppliers. Currently scheduled guests and episodes are subject to change.