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13 Great Ideas from Smoke Jumpers 2021


WOW! This year’s Smoke Jumpers conference was unlike any other we’ve held before. Not only because we were completely virtual, but because more than 300 CPG retail and foodservice trade and tech professionals registered and attended the event.


👏 310 industry participants representing 140 companies

👏 15 sessions over 3 days

👏 10+ hours of networking time

👏 170 members in the Smoke Jumpers LinkedIn network

👏 Most joined breakout room: The Foundation of Trade Promotion Management (hosted by Andrew Bond, Deloitte)

👏 Most attended session: TPO Highlights (hosted by Terry Ziegler, Blacksmith Applications)



 didn’t get to join? All of the sessions are available on demand

Smoke Jumpers – a community of CPG retail and foodservice trade spend and revenue growth professionals – had its first-ever online conference in April 2021. And, while we missed bumping into you at the coffee station, we still had a great time connecting, engaging and learning.

Like I have for past events (see 2019’s recap or 2018’s recap)… I’ve gathered this year’s biggest revenue management and trade spend takeaways for your reading enjoyment:


💡 #1 

New pieces of the Blacksmith portfolio

Paul Opening Smoke Jumpers Online Conference

Paul Wietecha, Blacksmith President & CEO, welcomes attendees to the Smoke Jumpers 2021 online event.

Session: Opening Remarks and Q&A

Hosted By: Paul Wietecha, Blacksmith Applications

Blacksmith Sales Enablement provides a bigger toolkit for your foodservice sales group and your brokers. Sales enablement software enables integrated communication to HQ and management… and helps sales sell more – which is the name of the game.

With the acquisition of Decision Insight, we’ve added fascinating, innovative digital testing capabilities. Manufacturers can do market research – virtually. Retail and foodservice teams can benefit from a range of menu testing, virtual shopping, and really any other ecommerce experiment you can think of. Get consumer responses to everything from planograms to packaging – pricing and positioning. You can even test out a floor sticker or door sticker for c-store merchandising impact.

The acquisition of TABS Analytics provides analytics to CPGs and branded suppliers through a wealth of tools, technology and talent. These tools help you optimize promotions, pricing, and go-to-market models from a quantitative perspective.

Plus, we continue to develop and invest in our trade promotion management and trade promotion optimization solutions.

IDEA: Take advantage of technology.

Our expertise in the CPG retail and foodservice industries means we understand the unique challenges you face. Our solutions are customized to your specific needs. 


💡 #2 

90% of sales go to less than 10 customers

Session: The Foundation for Effective Trade Promotion Management

Hosted By: Andrew Bond, Deloitte

It’s not getting easier out there! Retail and foodservice have a very concentrated landscape. That puts a lot of pressure on suppliers like you. Over the last decade, many companies have seen trade spend grow to 20+% spend. That’s a function of the competitiveness of trade.

In Canada, in retail, the top 5 accounts (or retailers) make up about 90% of the market.

In the US, in retail, the top 10 accounts (or retailers) make up about 90% of the market.

You need to refocus on driving profitable growth.

IDEA: Close the gaps in your trade promotions management process and policies.

Think about how to improve trade spend to benefit your business. Example of a gap: Limited / incomplete contracts, many of which are without any terms or conditions. That means your business is very susceptible to financial risk.


💡 #3

Fundamentals build an effective toolkit

Session: Foodservice Go-To-Market Strategy

Hosted By: Nikki Sendlak, Blacksmith Applications & Bryon Trauscht, Pilgrim’s Pride

Every foodservice business should start a conversation about how to drive more value to achieve strong results.

When Pilgrim’s Pride asked that question, they realized at the core of effective results was a strategic sales team.

With automated on-demand insights, Pilgrim’s foodservice sales team can spend time in front of their customers, instead of pulling reports. Now, the team can quickly drill down into the important details like:

  • Where they’re growing and where to close gaps in underperforming markets
  • How they’re pacing with benchmarks and budgets
  • Hierarchy views

IDEA: Support your go-to-market strategy with a Sales enablement solution.

How could your sales team benefit from a plug-and-play solution that would reduce administrative tasks? When all of your information is easily accessible and in one place, then managing your customers becomes much more effective.


💡 #4

Virtual shopping research correlates to actual sales more than 90% of the time

Session: Identify Shopper-Driven Aisle Arrangements

Hosted By: Alex Sodek, Decision Insight

Category after category, virtual shopping is a great predictive tool for what consumers will do at retail. Check out these confidence levels:

🐾 Pet = .96

🍟 Snacks = .94

🍨 Frozen = .92

🥤 Beverages = .91

💊 OTC = .90

IDEA: Determine what changes you can make to improve sales.

Virtual shopping goes beyond asking questions – it puts shoppers in a lifelike digital environment and records their actual behavior and purchases. And, it may be surprising to learn that those actions are usually pretty different than how they would have answered those survey questions.

Alex Sodek and Jennifer Schiffman during Smoke Jumpers

Behind the Scenes: Alex Sodek & Jennifer Schiffman live stream a virtual testing Q&A.


💡 #5

Calendar optimization benefits you and your retailers

Session: TPO Highlights

Hosted By: Terry Zeigler, Blacksmith Applications

CPGs can focus their planning calendars to support joint business planning. Use your calendar to compare what you’re planning to do with what you’re expected to do. If you build the best plan with the best tactics and strategies, but it does not meet the retailer’s margin expectations… then – it’s not a great use of time. Always consider the retailer profit margins.

TPO can do the work when you give it guardrails (or constraint-based modeling).

  1. Frequencies (timing)
  2. Marketing (events)
  3. 6-Week Gaps (promotional calendar)

…. the goal is to grow non-promoted business in a very strategic way.

Once your optimal calendar is in place, execution flows to TPM.

IDEA: Leverage your data through trade promotion optimization.

Your promotions should be a growth engine for your business. Remove the guesswork from sales planning by using accurate baselines and what-if capabilities.

TPO Smoke Jumpers session Terry Ziegler

Behind the Scenes: Terry Ziegler shows the audience an inside look at the single sign-on Blacksmith portal.

💡 #6

Menu optimization increases guest checks

Session: Menu Optimization Using a Virtual Test & Learn Platform

Hosted By: Jordan Henderson, Decision Insight

For operators like Pizza Hut, a website is its biggest storefront. Especially during COVID. It’s important that the website maximizes spend.

(Fun fact 🍕 Pizza Hut had the first product EVER sold online… in 1994.)

Pizza Hut leverages a variety of tools to access performance

  • Qualitative testing
  • In-market A/B testing
  • Virtual shopping evaluation

When it comes to virtual testing, Decision Insight can determine what consumers see, think, and do.

IDEA: Take advantage of virtual testing.

Optimization isn’t limited to websites, Decision Insight can simulate in-restaurant experiences. Testing menus is a great opportunity for manufacturers to sell their branded items to an operator and to get them to promote that brand to their patrons. New products, menu layout, limited time offers, pricing, promotions, and assortment are all ways manufacturers can virtually test new strategies.


💡 #7

Positive ROI is great, but compare it to your other promotions through PEA

Session: 5 Fundamental Questions Post-Event Analysis Can Answer

Hosted By: Shelley Fow, Blacksmith Applications & Justin Balke, Florida’s Natural

Post-event analysis is a must if you’re looking to easily analyze your promotional event performance. CPGs should conduct post-event analysis (PEA)…

  1. Directly following a large or new promotion
  2. Every 4 weeks, when your most recent syndicated data is available
  3. Before settling retailer deductions – to verify agreed-upon conditions
  4. At least 1x per quarter
Shelley Fow presents on PEA during Smoke Jumpers 2021

During Shelley Fow’s presentation, she explains everything you need to know about post-event analysis before Justin Balke of Florida’s Natural joins her on stage.

Why should you conduct PEA?

  1. Profitability: Understand your promotional performance to improve your trade spend and increase ROI.
  2. Empowerment: Make decisions based on promotional opportunities that cross retailers, geographies, and classes of trade.
  3. Creative Thinking: Think “outside the box” when it comes to promotions.
  4. Fact-Based Selling: Share factual data with retail partners, and strategize together for a future of win/win promotions.

If you’re on a journey to optimize promotions, then automation is key. “We’re able to compare promotions in seconds versus hours. The math is done for us and is at our fingertips,” Justin Balke from Florida’s Natural explains.

IDEA: Conduct post-event analysis more often.

Post-event analysis is key to understanding your promotions. What you learn from PEA can inform a library of cost-effective promotional strategies for the team to access, saving time in the next planning cycle. 


💡 #8

Ecommerce makes up 20%+ of pet category sales

Session: Harmonizing Ecommerce and Brick-and-Mortar Data for Insights

Hosted By: Annette Gabele and Adam Gray, TABS Analytics

A sector that is currently thriving… PET CARE. Ecommerce is driving the double-digit category growth, significantly outpacing all other channels. TABS Analytics has software (QuickTABS) that makes understanding trends a breeze.

Pet Care Dollar Share (US, 52-weeks)

18% brick & mortar pet specialty (5% dollar change vs. a year ago)

21.5% ecommerce (59% dollar change vs. a year ago)

25.5% veterinary offices (9% dollar change vs. a year ago)

34.9% all other outlets – xAOC (8% dollar change vs. a year ago)

IDEA: Imagine the benefits you would gain if you knew this information in your category.

QuickTABS is like a pivot table on steroids. The tool includes prepopulated reports. You can quickly see the benefits of ecommerce integration – harmonized with xAOC, vet, and pet specialty data. You can see how big the category is in dollar sales, how growth rates compare across channels, which channels contribute to the greatest share of growth on an absolute dollar basis.


💡 #9

Sell more K-12 products through 1FS Schools

Session: 1FS Schools (K-12 Product & Resources)

Hosted By: Jade Costello and Dean Rallo, Blacksmith Applications

In the US, schools serve 8.3 billion meals annually. Manufacturers have always been after a bigger piece of that business.

With 1FS Schools, your products will reach 5,000+ schools (that represent $735 million in food purchases)…and the community of school foodservice buyers on the site continues to grow.

You can extend your reach into the K-12 segment using 1FS Schools. 1FS Schools is an online solution that organizes data in a highly efficient fashion so that it can be easily accessed by the school’s decision-makers to streamline consideration of products and the addition of products to bids. It’s a manufacturer agnostic solution – come one, come all!

IDEA: Get noticed and end up on the bid more easily and more often with 1FS Schools paid programming.

Bridge the communication gap between you and the K-12 segment with a one-to-many relationship. With a more efficient approach, you can reach an extended network of schools who are benefitting from the same solution.

1fs schools k-12 segment Smoke Jumpers presentation

1FS Schools is the industry solution for foodservice manufacturers to sell more K-12 products.

💡 #10

$18 million trade reduction with <1% net sales loss

Session: How to Select and Implement a Trade Optimization Solution

Hosted By: Laurie Ross, Welch’s

Up until 2017, Welch’s managed trade at a very high level. It was basically a dollar rate per case sold. Every year, year after year, Welch’s tried to remain flat on trade spend and used in-house tools to assess that. When it was time to make an analytical change, Welch’s used these steps to find the ideal trade optimization solution and partner:

  1. Trade system assessments
  2. Welch’s perspective and needs
  3. Identify and engage with TPO solution vendors
  4. Narrow the list and meet the vendor’s referrals
  5. Sign with Blacksmith TPO

Welch’s implemented Blacksmith TPO in just 10 weeks and 3 team members.

The result: Laurie’s team lost less than 1% of net sales, with an $18 million trade reduction.

IDEA: Envision the results your company could achieve if you were more analytical about trade spend.

It’s a common myth that implementing trade technology takes a lot of data and systems integration. The reality is that TPO implementation takes between 8-12 weeks, depending on the availability of your data. Those results are just around the corner.


💡 #11

Easily analyze purchasing performance to reveal white space

Session: Purchasing Insights

Hosted By: Nikki Sendlak and Matt Wopperer, Blacksmith Applications

It’s a highly competitive industry. Integrated operator and distributor purchasing insights will enhance your go-to-market process so foodservice manufacturers know where the best sales opportunities reside.

With foodservice master data and a purpose-build foodservice sales enablement platform, you can find the right targets:

  • Distributor voids
  • Membership group whitespace
  • Product or segment purchasing

IDEA: Stop hunting for the best sales opportunities – use data and technology to reveal them.

When you don’t know who is buying or where, it’s a tremendous challenge to identify white space. With the right technology, your opportunities are quickly captured and communicated to the sales team so they stop wasting time where they can’t make an impact and turn their attention to where it matters most.


💡 #12  

Automate your commodity pricing process

Session: The Importance of Formula Pricing 

Hosted By: Meghan Hoover, Blacksmith Applications

If you’re spending too much time calculating prices, then this formula pricing tool is for you.

Use your time strategically. Analyze better ways to price and work on different value-added activities that will drive your business further. Foodservice manufacturers using the formula pricing tool have removed manual mistakes and found loads of time savings.

How does the formula pricing tool work? Blacksmith TPM automatically pulls the data from commodity sources. Then, it allows for different and custom pricing schedules per program. You can price at the item level – you don’t have to manage multiple contracts for the same operator. The tool has the ability to save your most-used formulas.

Once your program is set up, you do not need to go in and manually revise or update each month. The tool automatically revises and pulls in the updated commodity values and does the calculation based on the formula you had set up for that item.

IDEA: Eliminate manual commodity pricing processes to drive strategic analysis.

Automation enables you to spend more time on value-added activity. Blacksmith TPM pulls daily feeds from the USDA, New York Board of Trade, and Chicago Mercantile Exchange to source commodity values.


💡 #13

US Foods partnership

Session: US Foods PACE Initiative

Hosted By: Russell Merenda, US Foods and Mike Leiker, Blacksmith Applications

A few years ago, when US Foods announced its plans for the PACE initiative, Blacksmith decided to partner with the distributor and create an automated solution for our TPM users.

PACE is a deviated agreement delivery system for manufacturers. The vendor submits pricing agreements electronically (or via email). That goes into a secure FTP folder and gets submitted to PACE electronically. PACE provides a single file format location for all manufacturers.

At the end of each day, Blacksmith will send US Foods a file of all pricing agreements that were updated, and then US Foods processes them. In addition to those daily files, US Foods gets a weekly file of all manufacturer agreements to make sure these systems are in sync.

IDEA: Explore opportunities that are available to you through your software provider.

Blacksmith Applications collaborated with US Foods to create an automated process that US Foods vendors and Blacksmith TPM users to use PACE. PACE is the pricing and contract exchange system, a deviated agreement delivery system for foodservice manufacturers. There is no participation fee and it increases your pricing accuracy.



These are only a few of the ideas I jotted down over the 3-day Smoke Jumpers event.

What were your biggest takeaways?