Members meet in person at Annual Conference

April 24, 2023
By Jackie Lewis, VP of Content for CMA | SIMA

The first quarter of 2023 was busy as the CMA | SIMA hosted its Annual Conference in Las Vegas with over 850 industry practitioners. Members from across our seven private network groups gathered at a special happy hour – many meeting each other in person for the first time!

PNG Members meeting in person during the 2023 CMA | SIMA Conference.

The inflationary environment remains top of mind across networking groups as category managers strive to understand and interpret shopper behavior in a high-priced but also highly promotional environment. Our groups of retailers, small-to mid-sized manufacturers, and Flavors group met in 1Q, and we also launched a new group for manufacturers around managing global captaincy programs; more to come in future recaps. We are anxious to hear what the private label group discusses as well.

The CMA and SIMA strive to stay on top of industry trends and specifically how they impact the category management and shopper insights functions. One of the ways we do this is through our quarterly private networking groups (PNGs) made up of suppliers and retailers to discuss industry pain points and best practices.

While the full notes remain available to participants only, we wanted to share some of the key takeaways from meetings held in 1Q (January-March). These are meant to both inform on real-time industry topics and make members and non-members aware of the networking opportunities available through ARC (The Association for Retail and Consumer Professionals).

Key Takeaways on Shopper Behavior

  1. Food inflation is finally slowing from peak at 14% in Sept. 2022, but perceived inflation by consumers is still hovering around 25%, weighing heavily on grocery industry unit sales.
  2. Flu season has been bumpy at best, as sales spiked early in Nov./Dec. 2022 but have now come down as we comp the Omicron variant surge in early 2022.
  3. Flavors corresponding to health and wellness (ie. lemon, elderberry) as well as peach and blackberry continue to see success in a number of categories.

Key Takeaways for Retailers

  1. Retailers weighed in on the moving forecast for a potential recession in the US, now likely 3Q23. This is making it tougher to plan, but many are focusing on flexibility, efficiency, and pushing unit growth in the meantime. Many expect the promotional lever to be used heavily in 2023 as shoppers look to stretch their dollars.
  2. With all the data available on demographics, historical sales, and other attributes, store clustering can become logistically very complex. Participants advised to strive for the best model knowing you may need to scale it back eventually if too difficult to execute.
  3. Retailers are focusing on speed and quality of content with their eCommerce efforts, optimizing what products to offer and where to warehouse them to maximize delivery time and profitability.

Key Takeaways for Small to Mid-Sized Manufacturers

  1. The group discussed Walmart’s new Luminate offering at length as many are considering the investment.
  2. Club channel demand remains high despite inflationary pressures, and larger pack sizes seem to be selling better in other channels as well. Participants agree most are waiting to do elasticity modelling until after 1Q23.
  3. Participants agree retailers have been less willing to accept cost increases vs. 4-6 months ago, particularly in the grocery channel. The continued fear of out-of-stocks is also causing some retailers to pull back on promotions.