Suppliers can boost their returns from retail promotions, and can slash the number they run, but only if they are creative, work with customers and use smart data to their advantage, leading industry figures have said.

Delelgates at a seminar organised by The Grocer were told that was the only way to avoid getting trapped in the promotional 'box'.

Doug Bairner, trade marketing controller of Innocent, said its investment in research meant it could offer new perspectives on the category. For instance: its data shows smoothies are not just drunk by posh southerners so should be sold nationally.

Good research also allowed the brand to avoid potentially damaging promotions, while it was great at coming up with funky new ideas for activity.

Bairner said: "Our way out of the box is to show and trial other mechanisms and stand firm on our ideas. The benefit is definitely in the detail."

Rob Turtle, director of pricing and promotions for Dunnhumby, said that some categories relied on deals for more than 50% of sales, which created lots of noise but very little else. He said: "To end this, people need to change their conversations with buyers from numbers to research that supports new ideas."

Keith Hogg, group sales director of Scottish & Newcastle, said suppliers who experienced huge price erosion must take tough decisions if they were to inject value back into their category - even if that meant losing volume or market share. He said: "At some point, manufacturers have to say enough is enough."

James Bennett of Discovery Foods, said: "Suppliers must resist the pressure and get on the front foot with NPD and advertising."