Local Sales and Marketing Pros Define Strategic Path to Store Shelves
As independent grocery broker Schraad & Associates expands across the country, a team in Martin City is winning the Midwest with a refined talent for building brands that fill your shopping cart.
When you stroll through a local grocery store, you likely see the influence of Schraad & Associates up and down the aisles. From pricing to placement and positioning, Schraad figures out the best way to make a product appeal to you. It’s a fast-paced and complicated job that guides grocery brands from the manufacturers all the way through wholesale and retail operations to store shelves.
“We support the Central Region from our office here in Martin City,” says Tony Caloroso, Schraad & Associates Executive Vice-President and leader of the Martin City office. “We’re a tight group that makes an important difference for everyone we serve.”
About a dozen management, business development, and administrative employees are on the job in Martin City tackling everything from essential office tasks to advanced marketing research and planning. Their productivity is always urgent and critical to the work of about a hundred other Schraad employees spread out across the region. Caloroso says in a business like this, there’s no downtime.
“A lot of people depend on us and circumstances are always changing. We really pull together to make things happen and it shows in our performance.”
Grocery giants Associated Wholesale Grocers (think Price Chopper and Hen House) and Hy-Vee dominate America’s heartland, and both are Schraad customers. Caloroso has a lot to do with that. He was instrumental in earning and growing the business of both customers when the Schraad family first expanded operations outside of Oklahoma. He already had a long resume in the grocery industry and was the perfect candidate to forge partnerships that now drive Schraad’s growth in the Midwest.
“I was part of a team that helped Schraad move into Kansas City in 2001 and then we settled in Martin City in 2011. It was the first office outside of headquarters in Oklahoma and proved to be a good move,” says Caloroso. “We’re in close to two dozen markets now after starting with just a few and I’m really proud of our team.”
Extraordinary Food for Thought.
It’s hard to wrap your head around everything the Schraad Martin City team does to shape, support and champion a grocery product’s path to market. There’s a huge amount of planning and organizing on top of specialized services that the team tackles on behalf of manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers.
Work at Schraad’s Wyandotte Street office can soar from the coordination of coupons and other promotions to complex trend assessments and the development of ambitious marketing strategies that build some of the grocery industry’s biggest brands. Contracts, billing, reports, proposals, presentations — the paper trail is long and constant and extends to a spectrum of digital portals and other web-based systems that synchronize productivity and fuel momentum.
“Schraad & Associates is a finely-tuned sales and marketing powerhouse,” says Caloroso. “We make comprehensive product plans for manufacturers, sell them all the way through to stores and then follow it all up with ongoing support.”
The amount of work focused just on understanding the shopper experience in stores is hard to believe. You would be amazed at how much thinking is wrapped around a single product and Schraad supports thousands. Caloroso says everything about a product is analyzed, planned and precisely arranged to effectively position it for sale.
“At what price are you going to sell it? Where are you going to put it on the shelf? Should it be grouped with other products or other brands? What format is preferred — do people want popcorn in a simple bag or a microwavable package? Cut green beans or whole? The list of questions is extensive and they all require strategic answers.”
Understanding shopper behavior is also paramount. Figuring out what shoppers want and how they want it is nothing short of a science. Caloroso says decisions made while standing in a grocery store aisle involve a lot more than you may think.
“Are you buying based just on the product itself or a particular brand? Are you buying because of the packaging? Is there a holiday or football game coming up that might affect your decision? Did a newspaper ad influence you? All of that and so much more goes into our analysis and drives what you see in the store.”
Yes, they’re hyper-focused on products, but relationships are just as important. The grocery industry is constantly changing. Alliances and partnerships rise, collapse and realign. That kind of volatility is fertile ground for broken promises and missed opportunities. Schraad & Associates often picks up business when a competitor’s promises fall apart.
“On one end we get disappointed manufacturers coming to us wanting better results or new opportunities,” says Caloroso. “On the other end, we get wholesale and retail customers wanting more help all the way down to more people in stores managing products.”
Caloroso says Schraad is very focused on winning at the retail level because it’s one area where competitors have created a clear opportunity for the independent broker to shine.
“Some of our competitors cut back their workforce at that level when they need to cut costs, but it backfires and really hurts their operation. They can lose business over it. For us, retail support is a strength. We invest in it. And as a debt-free company, we have a particular advantage.”
Strong relationships begin inside Schraad & Associates. The company is pretty spread out geographically, so it puts in extra effort to unify its workforce by sharing successes and spotlighting performance achievements. Schraad organizes special events and helps bring teams together through a centralized video network that streams simultaneously at Schraad offices. ‘Friday Morning Coffee’ via conference call is a nice touch also that keeps employees in the loop on what’s happening from Texas to Michigan.
“We’re growing, so staffing is a big challenge,” says Caloroso. “Getting enough good people is a priority. When we find good people, we want to encourage them, reward them and make them feel like they’re an important part of our team. We accomplish so much more when we work together. That’s crucial in a competitive industry like this.”
Changing with the Times.
As for the future, Caloroso expects Schraad & Associates will keep expanding along with its customers, strengthening even the smallest weakness of the operation at every level. He says the company will continue to set the standard for broker work that gets results as competitors struggle to keep up in the face of growing customer demands. In an industry defined by sudden and dramatic change, Caloroso knows Schraad’s biggest challenge will remain the same.
“How do we keep our business stabilized while growing it and defending it at the same time? That’s not easy but it’s the nature of the industry and we’ve been at it a long time. We feel good about our progress.”
Caloroso also feels good about the progress taking shape around Martin City. He can see the new stretch of 135th Street from his office on Wyandotte near MC CrossFit and Habitat ReStore, and he’s ready for more.
“Martin City feels like it’s in transition. That’s encouraging. We need to hang in there and finish the job as soon as possible with more infrastructure improvements. I’d also like to see the community showcased better, especially as you enter from the Kansas side. And I hope all property owners will take a cue from those who have built up their businesses. It really does make a difference.”
Thank you Schraad & Associates for investing in Martin City over the past decade and adding to the business diversity that gives texture to our community. We’ll think of you every time we make a grocery store run!