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    T. Marzetti Company: How Space Planning Automation Advances Category Management

    Shelf IQ
    Points Of Distribution:
    Product Categories
    Planograms Per Category

    Established in 1896, T. Marzetti has grown from a small, family-run restaurant into a leading provider of specialty foods in the retail and foodservice channels, including salad dressings, dips, sauces, and bread products. New York BakeryTM, Sister Schubert’s®, and of course, Marzetti®, are a few of their most beloved brands. T. Marzetti Company is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Lancaster Colony Corporation and currently generates more than $1.3 billion in annual sales.

    Table Of Content

    The T. Marzetti Company

    When Teresa Marzetti opened her restaurant in Columbus, OH, in 1896, she was known for her delicious homemade salad dressings. When the restaurant’s upstairs level was converted to a full-scale dressing production operation, few would have guessed that the fledgling, family-owned business would grow beyond regional popularity. Yet, when the company made its first external hire at a leadership level in 2016, it was generating annual revenue of nearly $1 billion.

    While the company had grown primarily through acquisitions to that point, Marzetti’s leadership recognized the business structure and practices that had gotten them to their first billion wouldn’t get them to their next billion. As company executives charted an accelerated growth strategy, Christine Peplinski joined the team as the Director of Category Management.

    Peplinski was charged with building out a category management function from the ground up. “My first day at the company was the company’s first day of category management. An initial part of my job was to educate key stakeholders on what category management was and how building credibility with our retail customers would be critical to strengthening our partnerships. I knew with the company’s investment, we could position ourselves to create value in the categories we competed by delivering growth solutions through insights and capabilities.”

    Shelf IQ has provided outstanding productivity benefits for my team. More than the tool itself, the service, expertise, and partnership that comes from working with Nuqleous have proven invaluable to us.

    Christine Peplinski

    Director of Category Management

    The Objective


    Shortly after starting, Peplinski secured a category advisorship with a major retailer and had to quickly ramp up a team and capabilities. Peplinski leveraged her network and contacted a former colleague who she respected to help guide her in building a capabilities infrastructure. He directed her to contact Nuqleous regarding their Shelf IQ space planning software solution. She had also heard of Nuqleous through the Category Management Association’s newsletters which affirmed her decision to reach out. “After explaining our needs to them, Nuqleous demonstrated how Shelf IQ could work in tandem with the JDA Space Planning program we purchased from Blue Yonder. It acted as a bolt-on to JDA and provided solutions to draw and analyze planograms more efficiently and effectively, saving us time throughout the category review process.”

    According to Peplinski, Nuqleous distinguished itself from competitors by delivering a well-designed solution that met their needs at a cost that met their budget. “We are not in the same position as large cap CPGs in terms of financial resources, headcount nor number of planograms to manage. I very much appreciated how Nuqleous met us where our needs were and customized a solution we could leverage to maximize our output.” Jack Mitchell (Director of Product Innovation & Development at Nuqleous) worked with the Marzetti Team to get all systems talking to each other and made the setup seamless between Marzetti IT, JDA and Shelf IQ.


    The Solution


    With JDA and Shelf IQ integrated into Marzetti’s category management practices, Peplinski hired Matt Wiebe and Jeff Siemens as Category Advisors to work with one of the company’s largest retail partners. Wiebe and Siemens brought decades of combined JDA experience to the Marzetti team but had not previously been exposed to Shelf IQ. As specialists who knew how to manage categories by “brute force,” they quickly saw the benefits that Shelf IQ provided.

    “We could do incredible numbers of planograms and crank through them, but the automation that we would do was extremely limited,” Wiebe said. “We brought the knowledge base, but what Shelf IQ brought was the speed and the automation we needed to accomplish our work more efficiently.” Siemens added, “Shelf IQ has taken the things we’ve done manually in the past and made it far more streamlined. It’s made our lives a lot easier.”

    The Results


    Once the team started using Shelf IQ, they noticed that the software gave them the ability to accomplish tasks in a fraction of the time it usually took them. Wiebe remembers being pleasantly surprised by the impact of the application’s planogram mirroring feature. “We had 2000 planograms for frozen bread, and we had to mirror them,” he recalled. “Performed manually, a project of that scale can take two to three days. Shelf IQ allowed us to drop that time to approximately two hours.” In his role, Siemens observed an immediate improvement when it came to loading data.

    “In the past, loading required pulling tables out of our existing solution and doing multiple VLOOKUPs to bring in the data. Then, after gathering that data, we had to load it back to see the sales data for our items as we were drawing planograms.” He continued, “Shelf IQ helped us create an easy two-step process. Now, we pull our data from the retailer’s data-sharing portal and load it into Shelf IQ. With one click of a button, Shelf IQ then goes through a process that assigns the data to the corresponding planograms. This one-button solve saves us so much time.”

    While much of the conversation surrounding the benefits of Shelf IQ revolved around time-savings and process efficiency, Wiebe was also careful to point out that it has paid dividends in the form of increased accuracy. “Human error occurs by touching things,” he said. “The fewer times we need to touch the data to manipulate it, the fewer opportunities there are for us to sort it wrong or accidentally VLOOKUP incorrectly. With Shelf IQ, our accuracy has improved which results in less re-work.”



    Nuqleous continues to invest and enhance Shelf IQ’s functionality and benefits which further excites the Marzetti Team. Peplinski admits her team is only scratching the surface of Shelf IQ’s breadth of solution. “Shelf IQ makes us more effective, more efficient and more accurate in the service we provide our retail partners. It’s an impressive product with a world of potential. I’m excited for my team to grow into it and fully leverage all it has to offer, enabling us to spend more time delivering category insights and growth recommendations.”

    Looking forward, she expressed confidence not only in the software solution’s potential but also in Marzetti’s partnership with Nuqleous. “As we bring new people onto our team, I wouldn’t want to have them learn planogramming without Shelf IQ being part of the equation. Shelf IQ has provided outstanding productivity benefits for my team. More than the tool itself, the service, expertise, and partnership that comes from working with Nuqleous have proven invaluable to us.”

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