In 2013, IFMA and The Partnering Group (TPG) launched its Full Plate™ process, developing a best practice framework in Category Management for the foodservice industry. Category Management Training courses were launched in 2014 to teach industry practitioners how to increase profitability and ultimately gain back share of consumers' food dollar. After training is completed, members have the opportunity to become Full Plate™ certified by taking a certification test.
CSM Bakery Solutions has made a significant commitment to the training and certification program. Eleven of its professionals have been trained and six of these individuals have also been certified in the Full Plate™ Category Management process by IFMA and TPG.
IFMA staff sat down with Marla Cushing, Director of Marketing at CSM, to discuss how the organization has implemented the Full Plate™ process and how Category Management Training and Certification has helped the organization.
Q: How important of an initiative is Category Management for CSM Bakery Solutions?
MC: To remain relevant and competitive in today's marketplace, category management has become a critical aspect to CSM Bakery Solutions for our go-to-market strategies across the entire organization. We believe in developing solutions for our customers that help them deliver on their goals and objectives.
CSM Bakery Solutions was the 2013 Winner of The Progressive Grocer's Category Captain of the Year for Fresh Bakery. We were also active participants on IFMA's Foodservice Category Management Advisory Board, which helped develop the Full Plate™ Category Management process for Foodservice. CSM Bakery Solutions invests heavily in both proprietary and secondary marketplace insights; highlights include core category attitude and usage studies and proprietary bakery consumer segmentations. We are organizationally structured by channel and have developed internal category experts that provide insight-driven recommendations on how to grow the sweet bakery category to our customers.
Q: Why is Category Management Training and Certification important to the organization?
MC: Category Management Training and Certification enables our internal sales, marketing and development teams to formalize the process and speak the same language. A common language is also important for collaborating with customers and/or other supplies, with whom we may partner to achieve a common customer goal. And of course, it facilitates discussion among those partners who have also completed the certification to develop industry best practices.
Q: How have the CSM professionals who have been trained and certified in the Full Plate™ process implemented what they have learned?
MC: The timing of our team completing the certification coincided with the beginning of our annual planning process. We are leveraging the process and the insights we learned with our category teams as we build our innovation and portfolio management plan for 2015 and beyond. We also use the Full Plate Business Process to develop account plans for our target customers and the categories they represent. We have learned that aligning product, data and timeline expectations from the very beginning is important to building a successful category strategy.
Q: What is CSM's greatest takeaway from the Full Plate™ training and certification process?
MC: A key takeaway is mastering a new way of thinking and being proactive with our customers for shared success. We have found that the "Discovery and Alignment" step is key to identifying priorities and focusing in on growth areas. Recognizing the need to align our goals as a first step is a critical part of our solution-based selling platform and essential in establishing true partnerships for today and the future.
Q: How has understanding the Full Plate™ process helped CSM's business?
MC: The Full Plate™ program is useful to us in many ways. Primarily, this process has served as a category development guide enabling us to define focus segments, prioritize initiatives and measure our progress.
Q: What is your vision from an operation standpoint on the future of Category Management in 2015, and several years down the line?
MC: Like any initiative, I think the future of Category Management is dependent upon its success. Other programs have been used in the past, with limited success, because they were not adopted by the industry as a whole. If broadline distributors embrace category management as a go-to-market strategy and find that it facilities their growth and profitability goals, more and more manufacturers will strive to understand and implement the principles.
Foodservice Category Management at Presidents Conference
Case studies from distributors and manufacturers using the Full Plate™ best practices model will be the focus of a breakout session at Presidents Conference this year. The event takes place Nov. 2-5 at the JW. Marriott Desert Ridge Resort in Phoenix, AZ. Register to attend or learn more.
About Category Management Training
Training and Certification is now available to members and non-members alike through two training options: group or customized. Since training began earlier this year more than 150 professionals- manufacturers, distributors, brokers and allied communities - have completed the one day course and are now putting it into practice. The next training session takes place November 12 in the Chicago area. Click here to learn more.