Startup To Scale

157. What CPG Brands can do in 2024 to Drive Success in Retail

February 26, 2024 Foodbevy Season 1 Episode 157
157. What CPG Brands can do in 2024 to Drive Success in Retail
Startup To Scale
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Startup To Scale
157. What CPG Brands can do in 2024 to Drive Success in Retail
Feb 26, 2024 Season 1 Episode 157

Every CPG brand I’ve talked to over the past year has been laser focused on expanding into retail. While the initial order volumes can look promising, growth takes significant investment in managing those relations and driving sales.

So how do you keep track of what’s going on once you’re in in thousands of stores? My guest today is Will Salcido, founder of Bedrock Analytics who’s here to discuss what CPG brands can do in 2024 to drive success in retail.

Access 3 Free Reports from NielsenIQ’s Byzzer Platform

Startup to Scale is a podcast by Foodbevy, an online community to connect emerging food, beverage, and CPG founders to great resources and partners to grow their business. Visit us at to learn about becoming a member or an industry partner today.

Show Notes Transcript

Every CPG brand I’ve talked to over the past year has been laser focused on expanding into retail. While the initial order volumes can look promising, growth takes significant investment in managing those relations and driving sales.

So how do you keep track of what’s going on once you’re in in thousands of stores? My guest today is Will Salcido, founder of Bedrock Analytics who’s here to discuss what CPG brands can do in 2024 to drive success in retail.

Access 3 Free Reports from NielsenIQ’s Byzzer Platform

Startup to Scale is a podcast by Foodbevy, an online community to connect emerging food, beverage, and CPG founders to great resources and partners to grow their business. Visit us at to learn about becoming a member or an industry partner today.

What CPG Brands can do in 2024 to Drive Success in Retail

Jordan Buckner: [00:00:00] Every CPG brand I've talked to over the past year has been laser focused on expanding into retail. While the initial order volumes can look promising, growth takes significant investment in managing those relationships and driving sales. So how do you actually keep track of what's going on once you're in those thousands of stores?

My guest today is Will Salcido, who's the founder of Bedrock Analytics, who's here to discuss what CPG brands can do in 2024 to drive success in retail. Will, welcome. 

Will Salcido: Thanks, Jordan. Pleasure to be here. 

Jordan Buckner: So, I'd love for you just to give like a quick 30 seconds of what you do at Bedrock Analytics so that our listeners can have a little bit of context for the perspective you're bringing.

Will Salcido: Sure. So, Bedrock is a software platform that works on top of the data that you have. So it could be Spins or Nielsen, Cercana, you might have Amazon data, Costco. com data. Really any sort of retail data. And what it does is it puts together interesting dashboards, insights, [00:01:00] visualization, stories, actually, in the form of a narrative, uses AI on top of that to make sense of it and tell you a bit of a story and tell you what's happening.

And then it automatically exports it into decks and these decks are then delivered to a retail buyer. So we've automated part of what a category management team would do. You still need, you know, some folks to look at the data, but now salespeople can do it on their own and do it in really about 10 seconds, which is nuts.

Jordan Buckner: Yeah, I think that's awesome. I think one thing that I see brands struggling with all the time is how do I best tell my story in a way that's supported by meaningful numbers, velocity distribution, things like that, where it's speaking the language of the retailer. So one thing, I think we have a really great vantage point in seeing the data kind of behind a lot of the brands in the CPG space.

And so I'm curious, what do you see as the largest challenges for emerging CPG brands coming up this year?


Will Salcido: Yeah, it's interesting, right? They tend to have a lot of the innovation that retailers really want right now. Yeah. A lot of the times what we see is they don't know how to tell their story. In the way that a [00:02:00] retailer will take a risk with that brand.

So you have to prove to them that you have the velocities, even if you did a test in a small regional chain, you've got to convince a much larger retailer that you're worth those four inches of shelf space and that you're not going to get discontinued in about six months. And I think that's something that they struggle with is moving away from the founder story of like, you know, we started this brand and sold in a farmer's market and we make it all from scratch and which is important, but then the retailers thinking about risk.

And I think that conversation is hard for a lot of smaller brands to have, because a lot of the times they don't have the data, so they can't back it up. 

Jordan Buckner: Yeah, I think that's really key. You know, one thing that I heard in talking to category managers, like retail buyers at grocery stores, that they are essentially responsible for a P& L or profit loss, like for their part of the store.

And so what's important for them is driving traffic, but ultimately driving revenue. And every, as you mentioned, like those four inches of shelf space are really important and everything's filled, right? The store shelf is a hundred percent full of [00:03:00] products in terms of slotting, as long as they're not out of stock.

So like they have to take someone off and you have to outperform them or provide some additional value that other product didn't provide. 

Will Salcido: Yeah, I think people sometimes don't see this, but retail, you know, supermarkets in general, food retail is the most competitive real estate in the world, right?

Think of how many brands, right? There's 35, 000 CPGs from what we can tell in the US they're competing for inches and there's 352 olive brands. Wow. And yet there's only eight sold in a store typically. That's so compiled. Right. 

Jordan Buckner: It's incredible. So who can, it's incredible to see that and it's so competitive out there.

And so what are some of those things that retailers are looking at in terms of storytelling, right? Like what are those data points that brands need to share that are going to get help them stand out? 

Will Salcido: Sure. Well, if you're an existing, a larger existing brand, it's different if you're emerging there, they don't really have a track record on you.

So they want to know a few things. So they like, they're going to taste the product and like it. Right. So they're going to say my shoppers or my guests, your target will [00:04:00] like it. What they want to know is, are you going to support the brand? How are you going to get people to buy it? So you have to have a trade plan in place that says, we're going to do these promotions at these times, and we're going to lower the price.

Here's what we think is going to happen when we lower the price via a temporary price reduction for two weeks, let's say once a quarter. And then you have to have some numbers that shows that when you lower the price to that level, you do get those results. That's where testing in a small retailer makes a lot of sense.

They're going to look for well, what is I'm gonna take your two? You presented five. I'm gonna take your two skews. if this does well, what else is next? So they want to know that you have an innovation pipeline. If you just go in with that, they're not sure that you're gonna be able to grow with them if they give you more doors.

And the other one is around your base pricing. They want to make sure that you're a good value and that you're also you're not selling it somewhere else or a much lower price. 

Jordan Buckner: I think those are all really key. Yeah. I'm curious to hear your perspective when a relatively new brand is entering into a retailer, how much is the brand responsible for driving sales in that retailer versus the retailer using their own tools to drive [00:05:00] sales?

Will Salcido: Sure, that's a good one. It should be a partnership. Not all retailers approach it that way. Most try. I think it's very hard when you have so many brands in a section that you're trying to not everyone can get a deal or the support because you have to drive volume. If you're a very small niche brand, it's going to be hard for the retailer to say, well, let me make sure that this brand succeeds because they're expecting you to drive it.

So I would expect if you're the founder of an emerging brand to not, I mean don't count on the retailer to help you out. Hopefully they do. They should. But you should just build a business and set aside a little bit of cash to promote it. Drive volume with promotions. 

Jordan Buckner: Yeah, that's one thing that I've learned from my own experience as well and naivety, right?

Like we sold into our first retailers and with Teasquares and okay, great. Like they're going to help sell it, right? Like my job is to make the product that makes them really good. And their job is to sell it and come to find out that from their perspective. Really, they view themselves as like, Hey, we're providing a location for someone to potentially buy your product, but [00:06:00] we still rely on you.

As you mentioned, there's thousands of products in the store. You still rely on you, the brand to help make that connection with the consumer and drive them to buy your product in our stores. And so I was thinking that that mind shift is really important because without it, that's why a lot of products end up getting discontinued.

I see a lot of brands expanding into. Hundreds of stores, thousands of stores without having the consumer awareness or plan to really reach them. 

Will Salcido: It's tough. It's tough. And I think sometimes we all forget, right? The retail buyers, the merchandisers, the individual buyers trying to do a good job so they can get promoted onto an even larger desk.

Yeah, so it's like they have to, they got to hit the numbers, right? Both top line and bottom line. And you have to be really aware of what role you play in that calculation, right? In that formula. Are you a profit driver? Do you bring in a specific consumer that's really important to that retailer that's going to buy other things, right?

And you can, you can hopefully quantify that or you're just going to drive the top line growth. And that's all good. You can be either what you don't want to be is neither of those. Well, then you get this go to the, [00:07:00] unless you have deep pockets, then you can do it. Yeah. And you

Jordan Buckner: know, some retailers, they actually write larger brands that are literally buying shelf space.

Will Salcido: Good. That was another approach. You could do it that way. 

Jordan Buckner: You know, as you're. Emerging brands are thinking about, like, how do I show that data is data from like a small independent store where you're able to like measure your sales velocity by week or by month? Like, is that something that's going to translate well to a larger retailer?

Or like, how do you take that smaller story and position it that you can be successful at a larger retailer? 

Will Salcido: Sure. Yeah, that's a good question. Some retailers will give you your own data for free. Right. The whole foods of the world, you know, companies like that, right. Retailers like that. So that's the place you want to start getting your own transactional data, what you're trying to fit, and you're going to have shipment information, but you don't really know what store it's in.

So get as granular as data as you can get, you can get week by week. The reason is you want to track when you do lower the price, when there's some math, you know, when you're at full distribution, what does that mean? How do you perform? Because you want to take , that story and show another [00:08:00] retailer, like, look, here's how we did once we're in full distribution, we actually grew 30 percent And all these things, right, then you're going to eventually hopefully get competitive data. You can get that some, you can usually get that from, like, the Nielsen's the spins of this or kind of the world. A lot of companies that are emerging will get that from like a spins. You could start with a quick snapshot and what you're going to get in that is , total country, maybe a retailer or two.

And then you get your category and all your competitors items, which is so important. Cause you, if you just see your own performance, it's interest. It's good, but you want to know where you stack up against the rest. Cause you actually might be have, you might have a top performing item. You just, you don't, you don't even know it.

Jordan Buckner: I love that. No, that's really important. And then for our listeners as well. The Foodbevy has a partnership with NielsenIQ's, buys your platform. And so all brands can get three free reports. I'll drop the link in the comments. Definitely make sure you take advantage of that now. So you can see both your own performance.

And then as we'll just mention your competitors performance as well. And then with that, Will, like when you're talking about. Your potential for velocity, and you kind of mentioned [00:09:00] like trait spin and things like that, how should brands be thinking about measuring their promotional performance in a way that they should can tell that story, right?

Like, is it looking at your pre promotion sales sales during promotion and post sales lift? Like, how do you think about collecting that information? So you can retell 

that story.


Will Salcido: Sure. There's a couple of kind of KPIs that folks seem to use a lot. And that is the number of weeks that you were on sale for a given promotion.

The lift, which is what you sold as a result. So the difference between your everyday sales and the sales during that promoted event. And then you do as you mentioned, it's pre during and then post. The best thing that can happen is free. You're at one level, you know, in the middle of the promotion.

Clearly you have some lift. You know, at least 20 percent hopefully much higher than that and then afterwards, you see an uptick in your regular business, not on sale. And what that means is, and that will depend on the frequency of purchase of your product. If it's something that's only consumed twice a year, it's difficult to track that if it's consumed [00:10:00] hopefully once a month, something like that, you might see then consumers buy it at a regular price and the whole goal of promotions, right?

Is not to sell your product at a lower margin. It's to get trial. You're trying to get people to buy it by lowering the barrier to entry at a lower price point. They buy it and then they love it, hopefully, because it tastes really good. And then they buy it at a regular price because they can't live without it.

And , that's what you're trying to achieve. 

Jordan Buckner: I love that. So that data, I think, will go really far in getting you onto the shelf. But then, as anyone with products in retail knows, staying on the shelf is really the most difficult part. And so what data should brands be looking at? Let's say they're in their first, you know, 400, 500 stores.

It's really hard to keep track of what's going on each individual store. Like how should brands be thinking about leveraging data to make sure that they are performing well where they need to and not missing any gaps. 

Will Salcido: Yeah, that's a good one. We're seeing several measures really stand out with retailers and what they seem to want to want to see from brands.

We also help some companies , when they're in a corner and they're like, okay, I'm about to get this good. What do [00:11:00] we do? So then. So we have a lot of experience with this. I would say velocity measures specifically of one velocity measure called units per store per week. It's the cleanest version of any velocity metric.

There's a million different ones, but that one seems to be working well above, you know, I would say it's more important than dollars per store per week. So, you know, special week is just straight volume. And how quickly you turn in a store if you can prove that a lot of the times these smaller brands are not going to be in the top, you know, not going to be top ranked because they don't have full distribution.

They have 1 facing, they have 1, 2 versus their competitors who have 20 SKUs, right? So, it's really hard to be above that bottom 20 percent line where you might get disco. Where the, where emerging brands do really well typically is with velocities. Usually it will be dollar velocities because their price points tend to be higher.

So use that if you have to. Units is ideal because you're moving cases, which is important for the retailers. But either dollars or units per store per week, you'll usually be toward the middle of a ranking. If things are going as planned. And then you have a good case, it's hard for a retailer to eliminate, like, highly [00:12:00] productive SKU's, even if you're at the bottom of a ranking from a dollar unit perspective.

So definitely hang on to that. Make that your story. There's another angle, which is opportunity gap. You can say, look, retailer or Mr. Retailer. Mr. Retailer aren't that is a buyer. We're only in 10 percent of stores and we're already at this level. Right? If we were to be in 40 percent of your stores, here's what it would be and, you know, platforms like Bedrock, we add, it automatically calculates all these opportunities for them. 

Jordan Buckner: That's super important. I like what you mentioned because one mistake that I made with Teasquares, which was, we launched in about, it's like 80 Mariano's stores in the Chicagoland area and we just thought like, Hey, let's just launch the product and see how it does on its own. Right. And like, maybe have a little bit of organic press to help build that awareness. But like, let's just see how it performs. And what ended up happening was like, it was a complete mess because we weren't measuring what was going on.

We were merchandising by different locations and different stores. No one knew where the product was. Level personnel had no idea [00:13:00] what our product was. I went to one store and they were like, it was like, Hey, we make like Teasquares. Have you seen, they were like on the shelf and they're like, took me to the brew tea section when we were in the energy bar.

And then even there, we couldn't find it. So it was like a whole mess. And what ended up happening, we were kind of late out the gate of supporting the brand in those stores and eventually ended up getting discontinued. Because of it, because we couldn't show the velocity. And so how do you recommend brands like take a more active approach to like measuring, like making sure the products actually moving, make sure there's no out of stocks to make sure that they're not starting out behind.

Will Salcido: Sure. That's a good question and a difficult one for a lot of brands to tackle. Even the larger brands in the world suffer, you know, struggle with it. It starts with data, fortunately. So you need to be able to guide the retailers. And the reason that that happens, by the way, where you're merchandising a million different ways, and you really aren't getting the support is because they're busy they're focused on other things and they're like, well, figure it out guys, if you can do the work for them, which is.

A retailer like here's where I think we should [00:14:00] go create a plan again for them. There's some really affordable options. You don't have to spend a lot for a license, but there's some affordable options. You can even draw it in PowerPoint if you want, like little squares. If you give them that, do that, measure things for them, send them a monthly report of their data of how things are going for them.

 They're more likely to do what you say because you're doing the work for them. They just don't usually want to take a risk. But if you could do their homework again, there'd be like, okay, great. Let's give it a shot. And I think a lot of brands never try that because they're waiting for their annual category review to do it.

But if you were just to feed them a little bit of insights once a month, when you get fresh data, they're very likely, you know, by the third or fourth month to say , let me try that approach if I can swap things around. 

Jordan Buckner: Yeah. I like the idea of providing a proactive monthly check in with the buyer because Even if you're just like emailing something over to them, right?

Like they might not have time at the beginning to sit down. They definitely don't have time at the beginning to like sit down with every single. Brand that they work with, but if you are showing that you're invested in them and make it specific to what they're doing, even showing like pictures of like you going in the store and checking on the shelf or doing merchandising, having your [00:15:00] team go out, I think that probably goes a long way like, oh, wow, like this person actually cares.

And it's that constant touch point and just like. I know you work in data, but like, this is really the relationship business, right? And so all about like people and being top of mind.

Will Salcido: Of course. Yeah. And they're really, you know, you think an emerging brand is understaffed and it's true, right?

These retailers though, they went through a lot of layoffs. They really never hired back a lot of folks. They're operating on very slim margins. They don't have the analytical support in house to do a lot of this work. So if you could help them with it, they'll really appreciate it.

Jordan Buckner: And so along with that, and you mentioned some of the staffing issues they're having, like, what else are retailers really focusing on or pivoting towards for this year?


Will Salcido: From what we've seen, the trade dollars, they want promotions. It's expensive though. They're looking for margin, which is, you know, trade. And they also want, you know, they want to steal market share from their competitors and the retail landscape, right. Which means , get caught prices into my store.

That way they'd buy it here. Assortment. We've seen that they're doing. They've done a lot of rounds of skew rationalization. So they're trying to focus. They're trying to ensure that they have the [00:16:00] right items on shelves, but at the same time, which is very interesting, because it's kind of the opposite of that.

They're also looking for innovation. So they're looking for new items. You know, they're looking for what consumers are shopping for, right? They're trying to compete with Amazon and everywhere else. So they're trying to kind of create a broad assortment or skews for some brands, but then interesting skews.

From others or from that same brand. So it's, it's interesting. And then lastly, I would say partnerships. We kind of talked about it earlier, but they're looking for brands that can support them in a lot of different ways. So it could be trade dollars. It could be analytics. Other support, because they're understaffed.

Jordan Buckner: I like those, you know, 1 misnomer, I think is , the term innovation as it's been used because I think there's a sense that, like, innovation just means anything that's new. Versus something that's. Maybe in high demand that they don't have. Can you kind of share, like, I know you see a lot of product. Can you talk through like what the best quote innovation actually means?

Will Salcido: Yeah, that's a good one. It's I don't mean like another flavor. I don't know. That's typically innovation, you know, another flavor of something you already have. And that's okay if there's a [00:17:00] big gap, but it's more what consumers are looking for. Right? How their lives are changing. And I think what retailers and what most brands should be trying to build are like, what is my consumer?

Where's the pain point for my consumer and a clear path towards that is convenience. Everybody wants convenience. They want to spend less time, right? Things that are premixed. Are convenient yet you don't want to do everything for them in most categories. Consumers don't want to feel like they're a little bit in control.

So you kind of have them add 1 ingredient if it's like, some sort of component meal. Right? So things like that. And not also not innovation just from a packaging standpoint. Unless it's convenient, which is, it makes it easy to open or something, right? Or you can reseal it if people want that. Okay.

It's a tough one. It's just, it's a broad one, right? Because we can go down a million different paths. But it's almost like not me, me too, products don't work. There's, there's more to it. 

Jordan Buckner: It's something that like, I filled in with my product, I say, because with Teasquares, we had like four innovations within it in terms of like being in the multi serve pouch when we were really an energy bar, having bite sized pieces, using tea as a primary hero ingredient and having flavors like citrus, green tea, [00:18:00] matcha, right?

Like, there were so many new things that were different, but also made a moat around their, yeah. product not just from our competitors but from our customers because they had no idea what it was. So I always tell brands to be careful in terms of identifying like what are those key things that are leading a consumer to like buy a product and make sure you're hitting on those to really stand out.

Will Salcido: Well I think I know why you were merchandised in five different places. Exactly. They had no idea. 

Jordan Buckner: Well one thing that I've also seen you and your team put out is this idea that Different retailers have different metrics that are important to them. Can you share maybe like what some of those are and like how they make decisions?

Will Salcido: Yeah some are all about productivity. Productivity typically means velocities. That's so units per week. There's other measures like sales, plenty distribution. So some are all about productivity large portion of brands that are sold there, and those would be, I would say, high volume types of retailers.

Others are looking for truly innovative things and there it's very different [00:19:00] because it's not so much about volume. It's mostly about the profit, much harder to track, actually, because you can't get profit data for competitors. And some are really looking for, like, you'll notice this when you walk into a retailer and you see it a lot of tags when you go down an aisle, everything's on sale.

That is their focus, right? Like, which is this retailer likes to do trade promotions. And That's kind of , their game, right? They like to do that. And it's like a high, low strategy. So if you want to be there and succeed, you probably have to have to do that too. Yeah. 

Jordan Buckner: I love those. And those are important to know because it changes how you build those presentations and pitch decks, right?

Will Salcido: Yeah. And just walk the story. You can kind of see it. You don't notice like, , what do they focus on? What do they give space to? What's on display, all these things, right? And that's really, that's typically who they are. 

Jordan Buckner: I love that. That's so important. Well, thanks so much for being on today and sharing all these great tips on helping founders drive success in retail in 2024.

Really appreciate you being on. I'll include links to the things that we talked about in the conversation, include links to the Nielsen IQ data, and then also to Bedrocks Analytics. Will, thanks for joining me. 

Will Salcido: Of course. Thanks, Jordan. See [00:20:00] ya.