Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Celebrating Center Store

Grocery Headquarters’ inaugural Center Store Trailblazer Awards honor the CPG companies that are thriving.


It is no secret that the center store has lost some of its zeal. Despite the fact that the perimeter continues to close in, there are still a few manufacturers that are delivering value and excitement to center store. 

In keeping with Grocery Headquarters tradition of honoring those that standout with our prestigious Trailblazer Awards, we present the inaugural Grocery Headquarters Center Store Trailblazer Award winners. The recognized companies are doing the most in forwarding center store sales. 




Best known for its American-style lagers Budweiser and Bud Light, Anheuser-Busch leads numerous beer segments. 

“There are many challenges in our industry, including increased competition across the retail landscape, out-of-stock pressures and SKU proliferation,” says Adam Byrne, vice president of category leadership with the St. Louis, Mo.-based U.S. arm of Anheuser-Busch InBev. “Anheuser-Busch is dedicated to developing recommendations to address these challenges.” 

Anheuser-Busch is working to identify core assortments for the beer category. The company has identified the items with the highest rate of sale and incrementality, and Byrne says these high rate of sale items should have ample shelf space to avoid out-of-stocks.

The Barilla Group 

The Barilla Group is continuously innovating its products and offers options that satisfy an array of dietary needs. 

Burgeoning interest in gourmet products led the Northbrook, Ill.-based company to develop its Collezione line, which consists of artisanal cuts of pasta. The company’s Pronto line does not require boiling or draining, and Barilla will soon add another line of products to its convenience category. 

Barilla has also launched a variety of creative marketing and merchandising programs, including its “Passion for Pasta” campaign.

With its ‘Good for You, Good for the Planet’ way of doing business, Barilla is devoted to safeguarding the wellbeing of people and the planet along the entire production line and improving food access and social inclusion,” says Tim Knuettel, vice president of sales, U.S.

Beam Suntory

Consumers from all corners of the globe call for Beam Suntory’s brands. These include the Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark bourbon brands and Suntory whiskey Kakubin, as well as world renowned premium brands including Knob Creek bourbon, Yamazaki, Hakushu and Hibiki Japanese whiskies.

Beam Suntory was created in 2014 by combining the world leader in bourbon and the pioneer in Japanese whiskey to form a new company with a passion for quality, innovative spirit and commitment to “Growing for Good.” Based in Chicago, Beam Suntory is a subsidiary of Suntory Holdings Limited of Japan.  

The Boston Beer Co.

The Boston Beer Co. began in 1984 when founder and brewer Jim Koch uncovered a generations-old recipe in his father’s attic. Koch re-created the recipe in his kitchen and named it Samuel Adams Boston Lager, in recognition of one of the nation’s great founding fathers. 

Today, The Boston-based company brews more than 60 styles of beer. It relentlessly pursues the development of new styles and perfecting classic beers by searching the world for the finest ingredients. Using the traditional four vessel brewing process, the company often takes extra steps like dry-hopping, barrel-aging and a secondary fermentation known as krausening.

Campbell Soup Co. 

Campbell Soup Co. is a global food company based in Camden, N.J., with annual sales of approximately $8 billion. The company makes a range of high-quality soups and simple meals, beverages, snacks and packaged fresh foods. 

“Campbell is driven and inspired by our purpose: real food that matters for life’s moments,” says Jim Sterbenz, senior vice president-sales at Campbell U.S. “For generations, people have trusted Campbell to provide authentic, flavorful and readily available foods and beverages that connect them to each other, to warm memories, and to what’s important today.”

Led by its $2.1 billion Campbell’s brand, the company recently expanded its portfolio with its line of Well Yes! Soups and offers a range of brands including Pepperidge Farms cookies, Goldfish crackers and V8 beverages.

“Our mission is to nourish people’s lives by offering a wide variety of convenient, delicious and affordable food choices that can help everyone enjoy a balanced, healthful diet,” Sterbenz says. “We asked a simple question without a simple answer. ‘What is real food?’ We drew inspiration from one of our early leaders, Dr. John Dorrance, who pioneered good, affordable food in America with the invention of Campbell’s condensed soup.”

The Clorox Co.

The Clorox Co. is a leading multinational manufacturer and marketer of consumer and professional products, marketing brand names such as its namesake bleach and cleaning products; Pine-Sol cleaners; Glad bags, wraps and containers; Hidden Valley dressings and sauces; Britawater-filtration; and Burt’s Bees natural personal care products.

“Clorox has come a long way since the company’s launch in 1913 when bleach was our only product,” says Bob Richardson, sales director. “Today we continue to make significant investments to support long term innovation. We want to ensure we offer our consumers and retailers products that are grounded in consumer insights and are supported with the ‘3Ds’ of demand creation—desire, decide and delight.”

The Oakland, Calif.-based company recently introduced a line of disinfecting sprays and wipes that also provides experiential fragrances in two scents: Tuscan Lavender & Jasmine and Hawaiian Sunshine. 

“Clorox is always looking for new ways to make cleaning better and consumers’ lives easier,” Richardson says.

The Coca-Cola Co.

The Coca-Cola Co. commits itself to helping its retail customers reach their objectives and grow their business in what it calls the “Coca-Cola Commitment for Retail.” 

“As part of that commitment, we provide customers with differentiated shopper marketing solutions and help them leverage our unmatched portfolio of leading brands,” says Pam Basciani, group director, retail channel strategy and commercialization. “To succeed in today’s retail landscape, we know it is critical to be shopper-centric.” 

In the first quarter of 2017, the Atlanta-based company will release a variety of new products, including two flavors of POWERADE, two varieties of Simply juice drinks and three exotic flavors of Minute Maid, as well as two new transactional packages of Coca-Cola mini cans. 

E. & J. Gallo Winery

E. & J. Gallo Winery crafts and imports wines and spirits to suit a diverse range of tastes and occasions.

 “As a company, we consistently lead category growth in nearly all segments of the wine and spirits industry,” says Herb Smith, vice president of retail customer development and category management for the Modesto, Calif.-based company. “We support all U.S. sales from all channels of trade, with the grocery channel being our largest one. We build bridges between shoppers and brands, assist customers at the point of decision, plan and strategize, create and innovate.”

 The E. & J. Gallo portfolio is comprised of more than 80 unique brands. Additionally, Glassdoor selected E. & J. Gallo Winery as one of the Nation’s Best Places to Work. 


Gaea was founded in 1995 with a vision to introduce the world to the benefits of the Greek Mediterranean diet.

“Gaea has a genuine philosophy of life, with a deep appreciation for nature, favoring non-aggressive harvesting over large volumes and high yields,” says David Neuman, CEO of the U.S. division of the Greek-owned company, based in Hollywood, Fla. Gaea recently introduced a line of gourmet olives: super-mammoth grade, hand-picked olives packed in resealable, liquid and preservative-free pouches. A dirty martini juice will also be available this spring. 

General Mills

General Mills continues to make a push in the cereal market, led by its expanding Cheerios line, but also including such long-time favorites as Wheaties, Chex, Trix and Cocoa Puffs. Of course, the Progresso line of soups has been a staple for General Mills for nearly 60 years and now includes organic soups through its Annie’s line. 

The snacks market is another big one in the Minneapolis-based General Mills’ portfolio. The company produces such well-known brands as Bugles, Chex, Fiber One, Nature’s Valley and Yoki. Its Annie’s line of snacks include gluten-free options. 

Heineken USA

Since its was founded in 1864, Heineken has grown a dynamic portfolio of upscale brands.

“In the same spirit that inspired founder Gerard Heineken, Heineken USA is passionately committed to maintaining its premium quality as well as offering innovative products and programs to keep pace with evolving consumer tastes and lifestyles,” says Nuno Teles, chief marketing officer.

The White Plains, N.Y.-based company supports its brands extensively. The support includes Heineken and Heineken Light’s partnership with the UEFA Champions League and Major League Soccer (MLS); Strongbow Hard Cider’s “Nature Remix” advertising campaign and launch of a new flavor in the Spring; Dos Equis’ Cinco de Mayo and the “Most Interesting Man” campaigns; and Tecate’s “Fight Night Every Night,” an integrated program leading up to the May 6 boxing match between Canelo Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr.

Idahoan Foods

Every Idahoan Foods product is made with 100 percent Idaho potatoes sourced from local growers.

Beyond using only Idaho potatoes, the Idaho Falls, Idaho-based company is the only category player that has all of its potato processing plants located within the state, which shortens the distance from “field-to-fork.” 

“Idahoan has led the way in innovation within the packaged potato category.  We feel this is our responsibility as the category leader,” says Ryan Ellis, director, retail marketing and business development. 

Utilizing a new 21st century proprietary processing breakthrough, the company recently launched new Idahoan Signature Russets Mashed Potatoes.

John B. Sanfilippo & Son

One key to Fisher Nuts’ success has been its partnership with the Food Network and celebrity chef Alex Guarnaschelli. To celebrate the five-year partnership, Fisher Nuts, a brand of Elgin, Ill.-based John B. Sanfilippo & Son, and Guarnaschelli launched the #LiveUnshelled social media campaign.

“Chef Alex has been inspiring home chefs for years with her innovative tips and creative, yet simple recipes on behalf of the Fisher brand, but now we’re asking our consumers to step outside of their comfort zones, try something new and come out of their shells,” says Howard Brandeisky, senior vice president, global marketing and customer solutions at John B. Sanfilippo & Son.

Other keys to Fisher’s success have been gaining Non-GMO Project Verified status across the entire product line, which also contains no preservatives. 


Mars is a private, family-owned company that is comprised of six global business segments including leading confectionary manufacturers Mars Chocolate North America and Wrigley. 

“To know Mars is to understand our heritage, the five principles that guide us every day and the objective of mutuality, which is at the heart of how we operate and has helped us become a successful global food business,” says Tim LeBel, president of sales for the McLean, Va.-based company. 

These principles were first expressed by Forrest E. Mars, Sr. in the early 1930s, and call upon the company to create mutual benefits for all of its stakeholders. 


​MillerCoors brings beer drinkers a selection of high-quality beers, flavored malt beverages and hard ciders. Miller Brewing Co. and Coors Brewing Co. brew national favorites such as Miller Lite, along with a broad portfolio of brands and styles. 

Tenth and Blake Beer Co., the craft and import division of MillerCoors, is a family of craft breweries, import beers and hard ciders that imports beers such as Italy’s Peroni Nastro Azzurro, the Czech Republic’s Pilsner Urquell and the Netherlands’ Grolsch.

Beyond beer, Chicago-based MillerCoors operates the Crispin Cider Co. and several other non-beer brands. 

“MillerCoors, the U.S. business unit of the Molson Coors Brewing Co., has an uncompromising dedication to quality, a keen focus on innovation and a deep commitment to sustainability,” says Jim McNellis, director of large format channel solutions–commercial center of excellence.

​Mondelēz International

Mondelēz International is working to help consumers lead healthier lives. The East Hanover, N.J-based company intends on becoming the leader in better-for-you snacks by making nearly half of its portfolio consist of well-being choices by 2020. 

“Consumers are increasingly interested in well-being for themselves and their families,” says Naomi Rosenfeld, director, well-being, North America. “As such, people are seeking out foods that fit their lifestyle and have well-being credentials. Today’s consumers are also looking for simpler ingredients and more clarity about the food they eat.”

Mondelēz recently launched one of the first sponsored SmartLabel apps to give on-the-spot access to the “inside” information of Mondelēz International’s U.S. snacking products. 

​Musco Family Olive Co.

The Musco Family Olive Co.’s Pearls and Early California brands command more than 54 percent of the total national branded market share of black ripe olives. The Tracy, Calif.-based company is also succeeding on the sustainability side as its facility has a closed loop water system and a zero-waste status. Additionally, for the past two years, it has been certified for SQF Level II Ethical Sourcing.

In 2013, the company introduced single-serve, liquid-free olive snack cups called Olives to Go!. “This move revolutionized the olive category by offering a convenient olive snacking solution,” says Dan Kelly, vice president of sales. 

Currently, Pearls is collaborating with its retail partners in developing a snacking section within the olive shelf set. 

Nestle Purina

Nestle Purina has always been an anchor in the pet food category at grocery stores. Now Purina is making a difference in the center store by giving consumers a broad range of products to choose from in the pet food segment as well as new items that might just get consumers excited about a visit down the pet aisle. The St. Louis-based company offers brands across the pricing spectrum. That includes Alpo on the value side to its Dog Chow and Beneful on its premium end of the dog food market. The company offers Purina ONE in the super premium tier. 

With cats, Purina offers Friskies and Cat Chow in the premium segment with Fancy Feast and ONE in the super premium segment. In the Ultra category, Purina offers Purina Beyond.

Old Orchard Brands

A family-owned and operated company, Old Orchard Brands has grown to offer more than 100 bottled and frozen juice products.

“Old Orchard is passionate about bringing to market only the highest quality fruit juices and innovative blends,” says Kevin Miller, vice president of marketing. “We operate a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility that’s certified to the highest food safety and quality management standards set by the Safe Quality Foods Program.”

Last year, Old Orchards, based in Sparta, Mich., expanded its line to include four new juice products that are USDA-certified organic and Non-GMO Project verified. It also launched two organic frozen juice concentrates. This year, the company will introduce additional flavor combinations, including a Strawberry Rhubarb flavor available in a frozen concentrate. 

Pernod Ricard USA

​Pernod Ricard USA is the largest subsidiary of Paris, France-based Pernod Ricard SA, the world’s second-largest spirits and wine company. Pernod Ricard employs approximately 18,000 people worldwide.

The company’s leading spirits and wines include such brands as Absolut Vodka, Jameson Irish Whiskey and Beefeater Gin, and wines such as Kenwood Vineyards.

Pernod Ricard USA is based in New York and has roughly 850 employees across the country. 

Stout Brewing Co. 

Since launching in 2012, Stout Brewing Co. has created progressive and innovative adult beverages. “We knew that we could disrupt the monotony of the flavored malt beverage (FMB) category and introduce brands that would catch not only the consumer’s attention, but retailers as well,” says Ashley O’Leary, marketing manager for the Kings Mountain, N.C.-based company.

With three brands distributed in more than 26, states the company’s token brand, Great America, launched in 2013 with two moonshine flavors.

“Thanks to the nostalgic, Mason jar packaging, Great America struck a chord with consumers,” O’Leary says.  “With moonshine making its reemergence into the market, Great America has been able to secure its place in a niche market.”

Thanasi Foods

Duke’s, a brand of Boulder, Colo.-based Thanasi Foods, is among the fastest growing meat snack brands in America. For its meat snacks, Thanasi uses real, whole ingredients and hand-selects 100 percent grass-fed beef and fresh, never frozen pork and chicken. The company prides itself on its Smoked Shorty Sausages and Grass-Fed Brisket Strips. 

“Our meats are smoked using real hardwoods, and we do everything in small, limited-sized batches,” says Logan Soraci, brand manager. “We even stamp each one of our bags with the actual small batch case quantity number. It’s not easy, it’s not fast, but it’s worth it.”    

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags