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Accurate Baselines: Welch’s and Solaris Paper Turn to TPO


Accurate Baselines are Important

CPG manufacturers are spending millions of dollars to impact growth in their category. All CPGs need to analyze ROI. In order to analyze correctly, CPGs must measure the volume sold in the absence of a promotion. That is your base business.



The Mystery of Base Volume

When we sit down with CPGs, there are common frustrations that lead them to seek a trade promotion optimization (TPO) solution.

  • The need for better post-event analysis
  • The need to quantify promotional ROI
  • The need for a more controlled and profitable planning processes

However, the frustration that resonates with CPG sales and marketing professionals the most… lacking confidence in their baselines.


What baseline volume?

Base volume refers to the volume purchased in the absence of a promotion. Think of base volume as the loyal brand and product shoppers who buy the same items week in and week out whether it’s on sale or not.

Base volume should provide CPGs with the best understanding of the underlying health and trends of your brands.


The Need for Change

Dean Zuta, Head of Trade Planning and Finance at Solaris Paper says it was “very hard to see what our true baseline was. Nielsen showed the baseline higher than what they really were. We needed a way to strip out the noise. TPO does that. We look at a calendar in the system – we see display, promoted. We select a week and see a true view of the baseline. See what the true incremental is.”



Emily Saidnawey, Senior Sales Analyst at Welch’s explains, “Before, we were using an excel spreadsheet to manage all the planning and all the changes made to our plan – including base changes. It was a very manual process; it left a lot of room for error. TPO allows us to centralize the way we review our business and make sure what we had planned was being executed.”



Transitioning to TPO

The Solaris Paper team is transitioning to trade optimization with a crawl, walk, run approach. They became a Blacksmith TPO customer in 2018.

Zuta notes, “You know, our biggest concern was ‘Are the sales guys going to use the tool? Are they too busy to look at the analytical information?’ You don’t want to invest in a tool that isn’t used.”

The competitive information – the visualization of data is going over well. Now, the sales team uses the product, sees the value, understands everything TPO can do. “There’s less fear – it’s easy to use, it’s not too techy.”

The paper towel and tissue producer already sees a difference in how they view and use baselines within the business.

Zuta explains that the finance group “has aided us quite a bit at looking at incremental programs.” The team has imported competitor information into the system so that they can easily compare baselines. “This is a great way to get the team engaged,” he continues.

One Big Surprise

A couple of retailers used Solaris Paper as a lost leader. “They used us more than we expected; we had to take that to planning. What if next year, they choose not to do that? We use the TPO system’s information to know that if we do something different, maybe we can save some dough now.”

The Solaris Paper team is going to test the information and work on retailer collaboration. “Being a partner with the retailer is important – it’s something we’re working on.”


Functionality: The master calendar

“The master calendar in the Blacksmith TPO system is my favorite tool that I’ve ever used for planning,” raves Saidnawey. Since all of the trade investment data is in one place, “we can assess total spend vs. individual account level review.”Master Calendar Blacksmith TPO

With the master calendar, CPGs gain the ability to code weeks of data which helps get to show an accurate baseline.

Saidnawey adds that when Stop and Shop grocery stores went on strike, “I didn’t want those weeks calculated in the base value calculation – I can take them out. Being able to code the week for the consumption data is very helpful for Welch’s.”

Welch’s has even used screen grabs from the master calendar when they collaborate with retail partners.

“The TPO tool helps explain – in a visual way – changes that the retailer is making and how they can course correct quickly. The retailer is definitely engaging with it – it’s easy to read,” Saidnawey continues.

At Welch’s, “We’ve been diving deeper into the way we use trade promotion dollars.”

It’s important to understand where you’re spending, and where maybe you could have used those dollars else where to get more for the money.

Drive Growth with Baselines

It doesn’t take long to get accurate baselines.

“It’s very simple. There’s a baseline planning function that you can access in the TPO system. It shows you the current unit sales. It automatically does the projections for you.”

Tell the tool if you want a flat or rolling value, then the system generates the trends. It’s easy to save your plan.

It’s a very user friendly tool.