Tim Mudge is commercial manager of ProduceView, a provider of business analytics for the produce sector. Part of Market Intelligence Services (MIS), the online resource uses independently collected data to keep its customers around the world better informed, so they can make better pricing and marketing decisions. Here, Mudge talks to Produce Business UK about the ways MIS data, and data in general, enhances cross-category produce performance and also how the industry has evolved in the use of the level of information that is now available
MIS was launched 25 years ago, when online business analytics and category management were but a twinkle in the eye of buzzword creators. The idea that the supply community could or should benchmark its pricing and marketing strategies against the national supermarket chains was also still a fledgling concept, mainly because most of the chains had yet to secure a position they could truly call ‘national’.
“We were established to give strength to growers and packers in their negotiations with the increasingly powerful supermarket chains,” says Mudge. “Since then of course, the systems and services we provide have evolved as the industry has evolved. We have established ourselves as an online data analysis tool for category managers, growers, importers and exporters all over the world.”
ProduceView offers a uniform platform to customers across the range of these types of businesses. Reports are collated on a weekly basis to show key stock, price and promotion data on loose, pre-packed and prepared products, from conventional to organic and Fairtrade.
The nature of the industry means each customer uses the data within the overall package in bespoke ways. “Everyone is slightly different in the way they utilise the data as this kind of analysis can be a very personal thing to most companies,” says Mudge. “They all want something that is unique to their business from it.”
Users of the system can produce specific reports and tables relevant to their business or category needs. “By running the data analysis over the top of our database, we are able to provide reports that give them whatever information they want and provide them with different price comparisons, for example. They can also see promotional work and numbers of SKUs [stock keeping units] across different categories,” says Mudge.
The changing face of the system reflects a much-developed use of data across the industry. “When we started, everything was price focused, but now there is much more analysis into promotions, SKU counts, price variation and length of promotions,” he says. “There are also comparisons into the amount of shelf space and SKUs your category is commanding in comparison with “competitor” categories. For example, a category manager wants to know now how much space his citrus is getting in comparison to grapes.
“We have developed over the years in consultation with our customers and at every stage, we listen to the views and requirements category managers and trial new developments with them. It’s an ongoing process and we’re trialing again at the moment.
“That information is available to all of our customers and can be accessed instantly anywhere through the free ProduceView app, which works very well on 3G and wifi. It enables them to look at the main competitors and assess their own position. It gives them a good basis on which to price their own supplies and it also gives them information to help with their purchasing decisions. If they can see what the price is in the supermarkets around them, maybe they can talk to their suppliers and see what they can do to compete better. And if Tesco has a big promotion on a certain product, maybe it’s not the week for them to go big on it too.
“From the continued demand we are getting for our services, and the need for more detailed analysis, it is clear that category managers and buyers are studying data very closely. Our data is not used in isolation and is used with production, POS [point of sale] data and other insights such as Kantar figures,” says Mudge.
Strike a Lite
The latest addition to the stable is ProduceLite, and rather than being revolutionary, Mudge says it’s more back to the future. “It is actually quite close in theory to what we used to do when we first started out,” he explains. “We looked at our customers and realised that the industry has evolved. As more suppliers have become category managers, the retail market has developed and there is a growing appetite for data to help smaller retailers and suppliers make business decisions.
The ProduceLite team collates the information every Monday – by visiting the flagship stores of every leading supermarket chain and collecting price, promotion, SKU and new product information. That information is uploaded on the same day and available on subscription, each Tuesday.
Like all of ProduceView’s suite of data, the ProduceLite info is collected with the agreement of each chain. ProduceLite is aimed at the independent retailer, farm shops, wholesalers etc… who are not necessarily in need of in-depth data analysis, but do require the data.
“Using this service, they can keep up with what’s going on in the supermarkets weekly, but they don’t have to see the high-level category management work that other customers want,” says Mudge.
The ‘New Products Found’ section on the site picks up anything that researchers see in store that wasn’t there previously. “It might not necessarily be a completely new product – it could be that the pack size has changed or it is appearing in that particular supermarket for the first time. But because we are going into flagship stores, we are generally going to pick up the latest developments,” Mudge says. In-store photographs are also available by subscription and serve to help buyers understand what is happening at the point of sale.
The use of data has undergone a significant shift in the last quarter of a century, of course, but Mudge says the principles have stayed the same. “The thing with serving any customer or consumer is the more information you have at your fingertips, the more strength you will have when it comes to making purchasing and pricing decisions. I believe the information we are able to provide gives our customers the tools they need to put the finishing touches to their marketing plans.”