Big Interview: Andy Edwards, Ferrero

With lots of change in the wholesale sector in the past 16 months, Ferrero Business Unit Controller (Wholesale, Route to Market and Cash & Carry) Andy Edwards reveals how the confectionery giant is getting the balance right

How are things looking at Ferrero in regard to the wholesale sector?

There’s always a lot going on. The wholesale and cash and carry sector is incredibly important to us because independent stores are a great shop window in terms of engaging with consumers and shoppers. Having that relationship and connectivity with wholesalers is a big part of what we do.

Covid has thrown up a whole manner of challenges for us in the past 16 months, however, confectionery and chocolate are robust categories. People still want to treat themselves and enjoy luxuries, and the products we sell have a part to play in that.

In what ways is the brand currently working in this space?

In the wholesale channel, we try to maintain availability and distribution of our brands. Customers need to be able to find our products, to see them and get them into the shops, so we need to ensure our supply chain and demand-planning process is robust enough to accommodate that.

We continue to invest in our brands above and through the line. As we’ve gone through Covid, we’ve pressed ahead and invested to make sure our customers and consumers see our brands and are familiar with them and understand them. From a depot perspective, we try to do everything we can to ensure our customers sell our products as best they can.

How has this changed due to Covid-19?

In line with the latest government guidelines, we continue to put people through the door – both commercial teams and field sales. We’ve merchandised, we’ve activated promotions and we’re there to provide category support when they want it, so we’re trying to do everything we can to the best of our ability to make sure the wholesale market has been as robust as it can be through the past 12 months.

It has been a challenging time but, hopefully, as we come out the other side and unlock further, we’ll see this reversion back to normal.

We’re quite balanced at the moment. If we need to go and meet people – within reason and responsibly it’s the right thing to do – then absolutely we will. But we’ve been effective working with customers in the past 16 months by utilising different media. We used Microsoft Teams a lot at Ferrero and it’s worked really well for us. Like everything, it’ll be a mishmash going forward, a combination of different ways of working. We’ll be incredibly flexible in terms of the way we work and we’ll work with each customer in the way they want to.

Has that pushed Ferrero towards e-commerce a little bit more?

In the past couple of years, we’ve invested in our e-commerce capability and resource, so from a people perspective, we have far greater capability and understanding of the e-commerce environment than we ever did before.

We continue to support our brands in depot and warehouse with promotions, merchandising and category support for our field, but we’re also recognising e-commerce and delivered wholesale are becoming bigger parts of the convenience retailer’s repertoire. They want to buy online, they want to shop when they can, they want product delivered to their door. We’re engaging with customers to support that philosophy and platform.

There’s no substitute for sampling in person, though, and I don’t think anyone can fully appreciate a product unless they taste it, but we do what we can in terms of the functionality that exists in the platforms our customers use. That means we’re using videos, stills, imagery and descriptors, while we’re trialling some bespoke promotions online as an example to engage our customers’ retailers in different ways.

We, like everybody else, are finding our way through e-commerce, but it’s becoming bigger and more important. Covid has accelerated that.

Are there any exciting additions to the range in the pipeline?

We’ve got some really exciting stuff happening now. We launched Kinder Delice earlier in the year to wholesale and cash and carry, and that’s gone really well. Through  July and August, we launched a plethora of NPD. We reintroduced Kinder Bueno Coconut, which we last launched in 2017, and that proved very popular, so we’ve brought that back. We relaunched Tic Tac Coca-Cola too and into the wholesale arena as well.

We’ve continually got NPD and innovation coming through the pipeline and there’s more news to share later in the year.

The key thing to remember is that while innovation and NPD are important in terms of engaging consumers and keeping things fresh and people interested, it’s tried and trusted, high-quality brands that people want. That’s where we spend a lot of our time.

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