Siân Harrington charts progress at a Tesco Extra store as it remerchandises its entire soup fixture overnight to make way for Heinz relaunched range

Simple Food for Simple Pleasure was the strapline used at the relaunch of Heinz soup, but replacing 1.6 million cans overnight across the UK’s largest retailer is anything but simple. However, just like the new range of contemporary soups being put on Tesco’s shelves, it all went down smoothly on the night.
The changeover at Tesco’s 647 stores took place on Sunday (August 15) and is part of a national exercise in which 20,000 staff will replace six million cans of Heinz soup and 1,000 trucks carry new stock to 5,000 stores.
It is the culmination of Heinz’s year-long project to reformulate its Classic soups, such as cream of tomato, by adding more of the main ingredients and ensuring the lowest levels of salt, sugar and fat across the category. It includes the introduction of a new range of Special soups, developed by a team of chefs, which are benchmarked against premium chilled ranges (The Grocer, August 14 p48). Both initiatives are designed to reinvigorate the £240m wet ambient market, deliver more profit to both Heinz and the trade and bring the waners back to ambient soup. “We want to put the taste back into soup and bring it to the front of the cupboard,” says Heinz soup marketing manager Dan Ince.
It is Heinz’s biggest ever exercise of this type, with a budget of £2.5m to cover logistics, credit of old stock and supplying it to chosen charity The Salvation Army, instore merchandising teams, instore auditing and management communications to store level.
With such a huge project planning must be precise, aiming for minimum disruption to the retailer, explains Heinz grocery business unit director Robin Walker, who was joined by The Grocer at Tesco Extra in Lakeside, Thurrock to watch the implementation last Sunday. National account manager John Alderman, commercial business development manager Ian Hunt and Ince were also on hand to check the changeover went to plan. “We have worked with retailers to agree dates that best fit their needs. The important thing was to get store time allocated for merchandising teams,” says Walker. “It takes about five hours to re-plan the whole soup fixture.”
At Tesco the new stock began to arrive between Wednesday and Friday. Bright yellow stickers with the word “new” plastered over them helped staff locate the new stock easily among the myriad dollies and boxes out back.
Tesco used its own staff to implement the changeover. Across its superstore and convenience estates these staff had from 4pm, when the store closed on Sunday, to 8am the following morning to totally re-merchandise the fixture. Asda is also using its own team for implementation this week while Morrisons/Safeway, which will change on August 30, has chosen to utilise Heinz’s field force and Sainsbury is using a mix of both. Store managers are overseeing the changeover while Heinz will send in teams for compliance checks the following day.
At Lakeside the majority of the fixture was merchandised by 8pm but then came the fiddly bit. As with other large stores, the relaunch has meant a significant increase of space for Heinz, which will now command up to 50% of allocation in the wet ambient category. Close attention to the planogram was required.
The planogram is basically the same for all accounts, although there will be some “tweaks” made on varieties, depending on the customer.
“We have worked hard with our customers to ensure the fixture works best for both of us,” says Alderman.
Heinz is spending £10m on supporting the new ranges, including TV advertising in October. At this point cash and carries will have come on stream and independents should have sold through old stock. Bespoke instore activities are being developed for retailers, including instore and out of store sampling, point of purchase advertising, leaflets, instore radio, car park 6-sheet posters and consumer competitions.
Heinz has set aside £1m to deliver this activity across the trade.
If the experience at the Tesco Extra in Lakeside is anything to go by, the precision planning has paid off. As the changeover gets underway elsewhere, Heinz will be hoping it goes just as smoothly. The questions now are, will the waners come back and will Heinz accomplish its target of growing sales of both its brands and of the category as a whole? With the key soup-consuming season just around the corner we won’t have to wait long for the answers.