McLane Company Inc., a supply chain services company providing grocery and foodservice supply chain solutions, announced the launch of the McLane Center for Category Innovation (CCI). Formerly known as the Lab Store, McLane rebranded this exclusive value-add service as the Center for Category Innovation to reflect not only the facility’s physical presence as a hands-on retail store where customers can explore innovative new products, but to recognize the service’s in-depth data analytics, industry-leading category development expertise, dedicated manufacturer expertise and unbiased guidance focused on helping customers design a product mix and planograms to achieve overall category excellence and increase profits.

CCI has proven beneficial for many McLane customers, more than 70 of which visit at least once annually, keeping the facility booked upwards of 250 days a year.

“McLane’s Center for Category Innovation sessions allow category-leading manufacturers, McLane and the retailer to collaborate and create a geographically relevant assortment that meets the needs of the consumer,” said Alan Tobin, senior manager for category strategy and insights at The Hershey Company. “By utilizing a combination of shopper insights, industry trends and market and retailer data, the very best planogram is built.”

CCI Senior Category Development Analyst Jennifer Hutto said having the right participants in the room serves as a check and balance between multiple data sources. Additionally, the collective breadth of industry experience is one of the leading reasons why the CCI has been so successful in helping customers increase sales. She added, “We discuss overall performance of the categories, contributing factors that are affecting success, where the category is headed and how we hope to help drive future success with our customers.”

Tom Thumb Food Stores was in the midst of a major rebranding effort focused on delivering “Fast, Fresh and Friendly” service and renovating their stores with new products and flavor profiles to improve profitability. Through CCI, the collaboration of Tom Thumb Food Stores, McLane’s category managers, supplier partners, IRI and exclusive analytical resources from McLane’s extensive data warehouse, the chain was able to customize unique planograms tailored specifically to each store’s zip code, offering them in-depth knowledge of what would sell to their unique consumer demographics. As result, total purchases have increased over a three-year period with double-digit sales growth in their snacks, grocery and HBW categories. Tom Thumb Food Stores now visits CCI on an annual basis.

Hutto concluded, “Another key advantage of working with McLane and the CCI is the depth of information resources. With one of the industry’s most robust data warehouses, the CCI utilizes an aggregated class of trade-specific data and compares these findings with multiple syndicated data sources so that customers can make data-driven decisions on product assortment.”