In a First, Unilever, Supervalu Pair for Groupon Deal

Chicago Deal Marks Growing Interest in Platform as CPG Passion Cools for Coupons

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Groupon has landed a second major packaged-goods marketer along with a unit of national supermarket retailer Supervalu in a deal that dropped today in Chicago from Unilever, redeemable at the Jewel-Osco chain.

Unilever is offering $15 worth of Ben & Jerry 's, Popsicle, Breyers, Klondike or Good Humor ice cream products for $9. Shoppers pay up front, and the deal is loaded into their Jewel-Osco loyalty card to be redeemed at checkout.

As of 8:45 a.m. CT, 188 people have bought the deal.

The deal follows a General Mills Groupon in Minneapolis and San Francisco in April in which consumers could buy $40 worth of products for $20 shipped direct from General Mills, and another last month for private-label products from Massachusetts-based Big Y. But it's the first deal in which a CPG marketer has paired with a retailer to offer a Groupon via a loyalty-card, opening another market for Groupon.

The growing CPG interest in Groupons comes as the industry's recent fling with coupons more broadly appears to be cooling. After two record years for coupon distribution, CPG marketers distributed fewer coupons in the first half of 2011 than the prior-year period, NCH, a unit of couponing powerhouse Valassis Communications, reported Tuesday. The 167 billion coupons CPG marketers distributed in the first half was down 6.2% from a year ago. Digital coupons continued to grow in both print-at-home and entirely paperless formats, but at a 15% pace slower than seen in prior years, NCH reported.

The pullback in couponing and other forms of promotion is consistent with how CPG companies have responded in prior periods as they raise or prepare to raise prices, generally pulling back first on price promotion before list price increases take effect. Consumers, however, haven't lost any interest in coupons yet. Redemption in the first half was up 2.9% from the same period in 2010.

As in the Big Y deal, Groupon is working with Incentive Targeting, a Cambridge, Mass., promotion analytics and software firm. Running the deal through a loyalty program will allow Unilever and Supervalu to track how the Groupon deal affects long-term purchase behavior of consumers who partake in the deal. It also allows Jewel-Osco to track whether consumers who sign up for cards to take advantage of the Groupon continue to shop at its stores beyond the deal.

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