A Reinvigorated Relationship with IGA Red Oval Manufacturing Partners

Sep 20, 2018

The term “IGA Red Oval Family” was born in the early 1980s, when then-CEO Dr. Tom Haggai established a partnership among the world’s Consumer Package Goods (CPG) brands and IGA with the goal of helping independent retailers succeed. It was a defining moment for IGA’s unique relationship with manufacturers—a bond based on the value of promotion that goes back to the very beginning of IGA.  

Read the IGA Grocergram magazines from the 1920s, ’30s and on through the next several decades, and you will see full-page print ads about new products, suggestions on how to use a CPG’s brand in store, articles about the emerging trends in a brand’s category, and other stories designed to help retailers be smarter about big brands.


Back then, IGA purchased products directly from brands. But over the years, that responsibility shifted to IGA-licensed distribution companies (LDCs), and the nature of our relationship with manufacturers changed. Manufacturers shifted attention to the buyers at the wholesaler, and product information, new product launches, and merchandising ideas started to go to LDCs. This transition of product information and category insights was supported by field teams, trade representatives, and larger wholesaler store support teams who would call on local retailers, so IGA quit focusing so keenly on merchandising and brand promotion; and overtime the IGA Grocergram got smaller and eventually went away.

Flash forward to recent years, and many of those brand support teams are gone. Leadership at the manufacturer level changed, brands ran through multiple reorganizations and everything had to get leaner, tighter, and more efficient. Most big brands cut their extensive field organizations and even the brokers like Advantage, Federated, Acosta, and Crossmark had to adjust their field focus.

The result: most independents got lost.

When retailers lose touch with brands, really bad things happen. They lose sight of what makes a branded product special; they don’t get the data on category and shopper trends that brands use to accelerate growth; and they may never understand how to merchandise new categories and support new product launches.

Ever hear of a brand complaining about how their cool new product failed because retailers didn’t support the launch? I always want to ask them how the retailer knew about the product in the first place. Where did they get the full pitch about why you spent millions to develop it? How did they know what consumer need it was supposed to fill? How did they find out why their shoppers would care?

IGA’s wholesale partners put tremendous effort behind new products, especially at their regional food shows and events. But product information, category leadership, and shopper trend data is changing constantly. Retailers want to support new products, but they need more information to know how to merchandise and market those products.

That’s where IGA’s new communications resources for Red Oval partners come into play. 

It’s a strategy that can best be described as a modern, digital version of what once worked so well in IGA Grocergram. Where the Grocergram used glossy editorial and ads, we’re using a combination of video, podcasting, and blogging—all delivered by email and archived on our website—to become national brands’ best ally in getting their unique product knowledge back to the hands of independent grocers.

We will share all that amazing data, product insights, and new product strategy with our retailers in the form of firsthand interviews, insightful articles, and now—new product training called Learning Bites—so we can take the Red Oval partnership to the next level, building sales for our retailers, our wholesalers, and our partners alike. 

Take a look at our first Learning Bite below.



Investing for the Future
Of course, communicating product and category insights is only one part of our plan to reinvigorate the Red Oval partnership. If we’re to avoid being relegated to “industry association anonymity,” we have to work with Red Ovals to ensure we get the same support and attention as any national chain. And we have to provide them with new opportunities in technology to scale their efforts across independents easily and efficiently.

I’ve called on our brand partners to invest with us in new ways—ways that don’t compete with regular trade funds, but rather, access the manufacturer resources that bigger chains get and independent retailers often don’t.

As I write this I am sitting in our annual Red Oval partner meeting in downtown Chicago. I can’t tell you how excited they are about connecting with independent retailers in new ways. They want to bring brand and shopper marketing dollars to bear on our chain; they want to harness their training and digital marketing resources for IGA; and they couldn’t be more supportive of the effort to get both our stores and our shoppers excited about their big marketing pushes for the year.

With our new national digital ad plus the ability to back that up with training, product insights, and brand-supplied data, we expect to get more unique promotions, digital coupons, and discounts for our members than ever before, helping us compete and ensuring we are being treated as fairly as any other regional or national chain.

How will we know we are winning? You and your store teams are getting information on new products faster; the content is on target and is helping you learn what the new news is all about; new products are arriving in our stores faster than ever before; and IGA is bringing more national promotions to bear so we grow traffic and sales—without hurting your trade deals and wholesaler efforts.

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