As the category marketing manager of candy, snacks and edible grocery for Newcomb Oil Co., Bardstown, Ky., Tim Young is possibly the most popular person on his block back at home. Beyond the perks of getting to try new candy products, however, Young also enjoys the dynamic, challenging nature of category management.
Q: What guides your category management decisions?
A: I really try to break it down to the “five P’s of marketing”:
- New product: Look at trends; see how you can personally make an impact on the business by the decisions you make through innovation and speed to shelf.
- Placement: Make sure you are getting the mix, flow and adjacencies right.
- Pricing: It’s all about the ultimate target, making sure you’re doing the math to achieve your number. You have to figure out what the right number has to be.
- Promotion: When you deal with vendors, it’s all about understanding they have multiple places they can invest their money, but you want them to invest in you and your program. You’re ultimately trying to make it a win-win for both of you.
- People: It’s really about surrounding yourself with good people from a category-captain perspective, challenging vendors to bring great insights, and spending time with operations to understand how programs are impacting them.
Q: What’s an example of an especially successful collaboration?
A: In partnership with Mars, Hershey and Frito-Lay, we created a four-sided impulse rack that could highlight promotions and innovation. We wanted to really find out what the value is of our impulse rack and did precision marketing tests with Hershey to better understand it. Hershey put together unique UPCs for the Reese’s peanut butter cups on the rack. When the sales data came back, we were seeing the amount of product being sold from that rack and how it relates to the overall Reese’s cup business in the store. To me, that was incredible.
Q: What is the hardest part about managing the candy category?
A: For many of the c-store competitors, there’s an increased focus on food. If you are building out stores, creating more space for food, so many categories could be impacted by the space. If something changes in the store that will impact space allocation, it’s a matter of what will continue to drive the business.
Make sure the counter area is really set up in a way to be as impactful as humanly possible. Look at how to queue up customers, get them to the register and see certain displays to drive the business.
Q: What is your outlook for the category this year?
A: It’s going to be another great year for the category. Stand-up pouches will continue to be strong movers. When you look at candy and snacks—the Hershey Bites, and Mars snack mixes—that’s where you’re bringing two categories together. Innovation like that will continue to grow. There is still a lot of opportunity in the kids’ candy environment. As consumers tend to be more on the go, whether to ball games or tournaments, there are some bigger packages people look at.
So the future for candy continues to be bright. It’s a matter of how you put programs together that are impactful, that are not necessarily me-too, and take a look at data to see what your specific customer group is looking for.
Q: Who is your biggest influence?
A: I had a great mentor: Gary Buroker, my father-in-law, who spent 39 years at Speedway. He would teach to lead by example. He truly believed people were the No. 1 resource to help make your vision become a reality. When I ask vendors to invest in a program, ultimately I’m asking them to trust in me. If you go to bat for folks with honor and integrity, good things will happen.
“Tim is very knowledgeable about the category. He looks at trends and is always striving to lead rather than follow.”
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