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Jax Daily Record Friday, Oct. 13, 201706:50 AM EST

Acosta helps products get onto store shelves, then into shopping carts

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Jacksonville-based company celebrating 90 years in business.
by: Caren Burmeister Contributing Writer

Acosta is celebrating 90 years in business, but constant innovation over the decades has defined its success in the sales, marketing and merchandising of groceries and packaged goods.

Based in Jacksonville, Acosta represents more than 60 percent of the country’s top consumer goods brands like Campbell’s, Dole and Kellogg’s.

It helps them — and smaller name brands — move from the shelves into customers’ shopping baskets. 

Among other services, Acosta provides:

  •  On-site support and merchandising analytics to help smaller consumer packaged goods companies get their products on store shelves. 
  •  Experts to set up retail displays and strategies to help customers find products.   
  •  Sales assistance and marketing for manufacturers, including new brand engagement concepts.

“We offer better performance and can do it cheaper than they can do it themselves,” said Acosta CEO Steve Matthesen.

Acosta President and CEO Steve Matthesen celebrates the Jacksonville-based company’s 90 years in business.

Starting in 1927 as a single-market food broker, Acosta began to expand across the state and nation in the mid-1970s.

The company employs about 30,000 people across the U.S. and Canada, including 400  at its Jacksonville headquarters. 

In the past two decades, Acosta moved into the natural, specialty and fresh foods markets; military service commissaries and exchanges; e-commerce; and pet products, one of the country’s fastest-growing retail segments. 

It also expanded its reach through acquisitions and the use of real-time analytics to quickly identify and correct sales and inventory issues for brands and retailers. 

Five years ago, Acosta acquired Mosaic, which spearheaded Bud Light’s history-making experiential event known as “Whatever, USA.”

The advertising campaign in Colorado attracted millions of people through shared social experiences on YouTube, Twitter and Instagram in 2014. 

Acosta still faces many challenges helping its clients succeed. The pressures include big data overload, globalization, competition in the consumer goods industry, changing shopping behaviors and expectations, and channel blurring, such as grocery stores adding bars and convenience stores offering quick-service restaurants. 

“There’s just a ton of innovation going on right now,” Matthesen said. “Nobody really knows where this is going. I think it’s exciting, and I think it’s really exciting for Acosta.”

Matthesen sees opportunities in deep data. The real challenge is helping retailers learn how to use it to improve sales and make smart choices. 

For example, the data is useful for click and collect, an online shopping feature that lets customers stop by the store to pick up their bags of groceries. It raised awareness of stock issues, allowing Acosta to quickly solve a common retail problem. 

Customers don’t like it when they purchase a product online and arrive at the store to find it’s out of stock, Matthesen said.   

“Now, the retailer can’t escape because it’s staring them in the face,” he said. “Because the customer wants what they want. E-commerce means the customer is in the driver’s seat more than ever before.” 

While e-commerce makes up only about 2 percent of grocery sales, Acosta’s merchandising experience comes in handy in designing digital shelf space and connecting retailers with the right online tools, he said. 

At the same time, Acosta is first and foremost a people business, Matthesen said, noting it has a large team that’s been in place a long time and understands its clients. 

“We’re building on that,” he said. “That’s really important.” 

The intersection of real-time analytics and personal service creates a new opportunity to shine, he said.

For example, if the analytics show that daily sales fell short of expectations, it will trigger an immediate store visit to fix the problem. 

“That allows us to take action very quickly in a targeted way,” Matthesen said.

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