Fastest-Growing Companies Offer Strategies for Boosting Growth in Challenging Environment

21 Jun

Although U.S. consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies once again faced a challenging environment in 2017, research released by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and IRI found that many of the industry’s top performers generated growth by distinguishing themselves in three ways: differentiating their offerings, targeting consumers with greater precision and complementing organic growth with inorganic growth.

“We are facing an evolving retail landscape and changing consumer purchasing preferences, demanding CPG companies regularly revisit their strategies,” said Krishnakumar (KK) Davey, president of IRI Strategic Analytics. “Companies that use data-driven strategies to understand their consumers and what is driving their growth are best positioned to identify and take advantage of new opportunities whenever they arise.”

“The market continues to be sluggish, but in identifying this year’s CPG growth leaders, we found that there are clear steps companies can take to uncover areas of growth,” said Peri Edelstein, a BCG partner and coauthor of the study. “This includes developing a deep understanding of consumer demand, innovating to meet new occasions and using pricing strategically to enhance volume growth instead of as a tactic to drive dollar growth.”

Key findings of the study include:

  • Continued decline in CPG growth. The decline in the rate of U.S. CPG growth that began in 2016 continued with dollar sales growth in measured channels dropping from 1.5 percent in 2016 to 1.2 percent in 2017. For the first time since 2012, when BCG and IRI began conducting this study, volumes in measured channels declined, dropping 0.2 percent.
  • Significant growth in emerging channels. Although growth in measured channels declined to 1.2 percent, unmeasured channels — including discounters, natural, e-commerce, meal kits, fresh foods and local market — saw substantial growth. The natural channel, for example, saw 8.9 percent growth.
  • Smaller companies outpacing larger counterparts. While revenues of large CPG companies remained roughly flat, with only 0.2 percent year-over-year growth, small companies continued to increase their market share and grew by approximately 2.3 percent. In dollar terms, over the past five years, large companies have ceded approximately $15 billion in sales to their smaller counterparts. Scale no longer serves as the primary basis of competition.

The findings are based on the sixth annual analysis by BCG and IRI of the growth performance of more than 400 public and private CPG companies with annual U.S. retail sales of more than $100 million in measured retail channels, including grocery, drug, mass-merchandise and convenience stores. The study focused on what consumers actually buy in measured channels, as opposed to what factories ship, and generated three lists of growth leaders: small companies ($100 million to $1 billion in IRI-measured retail sales), midsize companies ($1 billion to $5.5 billion) and large companies (more than $5.5 billion). Companies were ranked on a combination of three metrics: dollar sales growth, volume sales growth and market share gains.

Constellation Brands tops the CPG growth-leader list of large companies, followed by DanoneWave, Mars, Dr Pepper Snapple and Tyson. The leaders among midsize companies are The Wonderful Company, Cargill, Chobani, Monster and Hostess. Topping the growth-leader list of small companies are Pax, Eden Creamery, Rana, Bragg and Idahoan Foods.

The study also analyzed trends that drove performance in the CPG sector, and suggests that the most successful companies distinguish themselves in several key ways:

  • Differentiate offerings: Use a data-driven approach to identify and understand their core consumers and subsequently develop and market products that address those consumers’ specific preferences.
  • Target consumers with greater precision: Use consumer knowledge to develop and market products to address those consumers’ specific preferences.
  • Complement organic growth with inorganic growth: Investing in small, fast-growing brands can help companies fill holes in a product portfolio and acquire new capabilities.

To arrange an interview with one of the authors, please contact BCG’s Eric Gregoire at 617-671-5625 or gregoire.eric@bcg.com or IRI’s Shelley Hughes at 312-474-3675 or shelley.hughes@iriworldwide.com.

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