A Recipe for Success: Nielsen-Massey Vanillas and SPINS’ Data-Driven Retail Triumph

June 13, 2024
by SPINS Marketing

From Legacy to Leadership

Nielsen-Massey Vanilla (NMV) has been a premium provider of vanilla and flavor extracts for over a century and SPINS client since 2020. While their relationship with SPINS has been short compared to their long legacy, they have seen unprecedented growth that resulted in NMV becoming the #1 growing vanilla brand of 2023. Over the partnership, NMV worked with SPINS and its partners on key initiatives to increase distribution and deploy strategies to drive sustained success and sales velocity once they hit retail shelves.

Getting On Shelf: Demonstrating Value and Differentiation

NMV has historically been a top performer among Natural retailers, this history of success would become their springboard to gain new expansion opportunities with mass-market retailers in the Conventional Channel.

However, competition for getting onto these shelves is stiff, and the pitch process is laborious. To focus efforts, NMV activated SPINS’s consulting group to act as an extension of their team to not only determine which retailers to prioritize, but also which products.

Extensive market analysis revealed NMV’s strengths and why retailers needed products like theirs on shelf:

  • Vanilla brands can be positioned as premium, mainstream, or value.
  • Premium brands like NMV were on the rise, and their higher prices more than closed the revenue gap from lower unit sales compared to cheaper options.
  • Consumers frequently traded up on Vanilla, deployment of effective promotional strategies often created loyal, repeat purchasers.

Data in hand, SPINS and NMV identified retailers who had fewer premium vanillas on shelves and showcased the opportunity that premium vanilla products represented—especially ones like vanilla bean paste. Vanilla bean paste can be used just like extract but provides a richer flavor and distinct visual appeal compared to extract. Since not many brands offered paste at the time, it became a differentiator for NMV. When paired with their historic performance, NMV was easily able to highlight how their products filled gaps in retailer assortments.

Over the course of their SPINS partnership, NMV gained distribution at retailers like Kroger, Walmart, and Giant. In just two years, they doubled their all-commodity volume (ACV)—a metric used to help calculate retail distribution performance—in the Conventional Channel, posting impressive numbers like:

  • +23% $ growth vs. overall Shelf-Stable Baking Flavors category
  • +90% total distribution point (TDP) growth vs. overall Shelf-Stable Baking Flavors category
  • +20% growth in total sales volume

Source: SPINS, TOTAL US – MULO (Powered by Circana), SS Baking Flavors,​ Nielsen-Massey, 2023 vs. 2021 (L52 Weeks Ending 12/31/23 vs 2 Years Ago)​

Succeeding On Shelf: Sustaining Retail Performance

While NMV’s push to gain broader distribution succeeded, it was only the beginning. Shelf space is extraordinarily competitive, and NMV knew just who to ask to create and launch innovative strategies to ensure their hard work bore fruit.

For a brand like NMV that currently doesn’t sell direct-to-consumer, it’s hard to get a true view of the ROI of their ads as consumers must complete the purchase in-store versus clicking to buy online. To make their ads more effective and also drive velocity in stores, NMV worked with Destini (a SPINS partner) to use store locator data to help create a geo-targeting ad strategy. This way they could focus marketing efforts on the top zip codes where two things are true:

  1. A high number of their target consumers can be found
  2. They live close to a store that stocks NMV products

The ads would connect consumers to the exact stores around them where NMV products can be found, making it an easier, simpler experience for consumers to complete the purchase in-store. Not only that, this type of geo-targeting analysis also enabled NMV to advise retailers on which stores had high sales potential and make a case to push for even wider distribution.

“Partnering with SPINS helped us show retailers how our promos could not only grow our brand but the entire category!”

Adam Hobler
Vice President Global Marketing, Nielsen-Massey Vanillas

To further their growth, NMV commissioned a price elasticity and promotional analysis to navigate the tricky realm of promotions—too frequent or too deep would erode the premium position NMV had cultivated for a century, but too light, and the lost revenue would defeat the point of a promotion in the first place.

SPINS returned with insights on:

  • Optimal promotional periods and pricing ​
  • Consumer responsiveness to price changes
  • Incremental impact of promotions

The key finding? A well-formulated promotional strategy would not only allow NMV to take share from competitors but also drive increased overall category sales!

Source: SPINS, TOTAL US – Food (Powered by Circana) + SPINS Natural, SS Baking Flavors—Vanilla, Nielsen-Massey, 2023 vs. 2022 (L12 Weeks Ending 12/31/23 vs 1 Year Ago); SPINS, TOTAL US – Food (Powered by Circana) + SPINS Natural, SS Baking Flavors—Vanilla, (L52 Weeks Ending 11/05/23)

This proved true. Adam Hobler, NMV’s Vice President of Global Marketing noted that “partnering with SPINS helped us show retailers how our promos could not only grow our brand, but the entire category.” After implementing SPINS’s proposed strategy, NMV posted stunning results: A whopping +129% increase in YoY performance. This represented a 53% lift compared to base sales—the sales they would have made without promotions. In comparison, the rest of the Natural Positioned Vanilla landscape only saw a +7% increase within the same period.

Turning Insights into Action

NMV’s collaboration with SPINS highlights the profound impact of data-driven strategies in achieving transformative growth and competitive advantage. By embracing innovative solutions and leveraging expert insights, NMV has unlocked new opportunities, optimized strategies, and drove business performance.