Navigating Pricing & Promotion in the Complex DSD Route-to-Market

Managing pricing, promotions, and the trade spending that goes along with it is complicated enough in a direct-to-warehouse distribution (DTW) model.  When your route to market includes Direct Store Delivery (DSD), the process is even more intricate.   

Utz Quality Foods and Vita Coco are companies experiencing this complexity firsthand, the former in the salty snacks food category, and the latter in beverages.  Both have deployed UpClear’s BluePlanner platform to help.   

UTZ Quality Foods

At Utz, small customers are a big part of the business which includes the UTZ, ZAPPS, BOULDER CANYON, and ON THE BORDER brands.  According to Jessica Reese, Senior Director of Trade Marketing & Revenue Management, when Utz combines it’s small customers that are part of their DSD operation- independent stores, small chains, and inner-city bodegas, “it’s a top-ten customer.”  Because of the dollars at stake, it is vital to understand promotion strategy and productivity.  Speaking about the DSD route to market Jessica said, “We knew we needed more visibility to that business.” 

In addition, Utz had a goal of adding upfront decision-making support…a need to move the organization to more “managing-and-measuring trade rather than just strictly execution.”  Said Reese, “As we think about that complexity and how we need to be able to support those two very different types of customers – whether it be DSD versus DTW, or the different channels – we wanted to make sure we are able to support trade management across the board.  The BluePlanner solution really encourages that partnership across all functions.” 

Reflecting on their time with BluePlaner, Reese says, “We have definitely taken many steps forward in being able to see the business and have clarity that we’ve never had before.” 

Vita Coco

Before deploying BluePlanner, Vita Coco, maker of coconut waters distributed through the Keurig Dr. Pepper (KDP) distribution network, had been manually tracking pricing, promotion, and other “economic” data.  

Philp Willner is Director of Revenue Management & Strategy at Vita Coco.  He explained, “Before we embarked with UpClear and BluePlanner a couple years ago we were really housing our key retailer economic information…in Excel sheets.  And obviously there’s a whole slew of reasons why you wouldn’t want to have that process.”   

Willner continued, “There’s no visibility to the organization.  Only that individual has the files or there’s a shared folder, but its not very visible to people in the organization. In addition, the data becomes outdated very quickly.”  Speaking about the need to look across customer and products holistically, Willner said, “there was no ability to roll that up in a quick fashion.”  

When talking about their requirements for a better solution for their growing business, Vita Coco needed to see both the “forest” and the “trees.”  Said Willner, “what we are referring to there as the “trees,” we need to understand the individual economics at our key retailers… but also be able to quickly roll that up and say for a specific package: What are the economics in this channel? What are the economics for all of Vita Coco? …and that’s really the “forest.”  When we embarked on this journey we knew we wanted this capability.”   

But neither the “forest” or the “trees” are possible without the right plan input data.  

Mr. Willner elaborated on specialized planning needs related to promotion allowances in DSD.  “Vita Coco itself doesn’t take on that entire $5 reduction…there is a shared component with the distributor.  We needed to make sure…leveraging BluePlanner… that it can allocate the spend, the reduction in cost to the retailer and say… this piece is going to be picked up by the distributor, and this piece is going to be picked up by Vita Coco.  Continuing about promotions, Willner said “You’re able to get a sense of which ones work, which ones don’t in a very quick fashion.  What you may be doing in Excel today can easily be done in BluePlanner.”   

UpClear and Vita Coco have worked together since 2018.  Said Willner, “The design that BluePlanner has…we were really impressed with and think that it really works well for our organization.”