Ferrara Puts Organic Gummy Bears and Data at Center of Its Growth Strategy

Candy Maker Uses IRI Platform to Give Salespeople Quick Data Access

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Credit: Ferrara Candy Company
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The Ferrara Candy Company aims to double its sales to $2 billion by 2020, and it's making a new line of organic gummy treats a key part of its growth plans. Like many companies that have survived as long as Ferrara, the 108-year-old maker of Fruit Stripe gum and chewy Chuckles candy is modernizing its approach to marketing along with updating its snacks to satisfy consumers' wants. Immediate access to current data is at the core of that strategy.

Ferrara's 70 salespeople and 12 marketing execs today regularly access Liquid Data, a platform from IRI that tracks sales of its Black Forest Organic Gummy Cherries and Gummy Worms, along with millions of other products across 120,000 stores, and incorporates data from partners showing TV viewing by household, gas prices, and even models for local flu outbreaks.

"The objective is to drive real-time data," said Todd Siwak, CEO of the Ferrara Candy Company, which previously relied on its data manager to run queries and produce reports on a case-by-case basis for salespeople.

"The vast majority of data that is generated is the result of more of a platform approach," said Mr. Siwak, noting that Ferrara still has a data manager, though that person can now be more strategic. "It's just a higher order of thinking for us," he added.

In late March, IRI added the ability to track how ad campaigns directly affect sales. The sales lift tracker shows by household, five or more weeks after an ad campaign launch, whether products have been purchased for the first time and whether households exposed to ads spent more per purchase compared to households not exposed to the campaign. The household sales data comes from IRI's loyalty card and survey panel, while exposure data comes through various partners, the company said.

In addition to measuring ad campaigns, Ferrara employs the platform to measure lift by geography and velocity of sales per store per week, said Mr. Siwak. The confectioner also uses it to determine how its brands stack up against others in the category, see which retailers have the highest sales in particular candy segments, and help develop a strategy for increasing sales growth for the new organic candy line. "You can start to build a business plan which is what we did around Black Forest Organic," said Mr. Siwak. "It also helps us to dimensionalize the size of a business."

The IRI system was introduced eight years ago and in that time the retail data firm has integrated several databases that complement its sales data from partners including Comscore and its TV data firm Rentrak.

"None of the data is pre-aggregated," said Andrew Appel, president and CEO of IRI. Data in its original non-aggregated form is more accurate than aggregated information that is more broadly representative.

Recognizing that all sorts of factors influence consumer purchases, when measuring sales lift or assisting clients with TV planning, the IRI system takes into account things like the weather in a particular locale. It can also look at whether products were promoted in an endcap display at the end of a grocery store aisle.

Just a year ago, 170 clients were using the IRI platform. Today that number has grown to 250, more than 20 of which are major manufacturers, said Mr. Appel. "It's part of every proposal and we are winning a lot of clients in the mid or upper-midmarket," he said.