It's a Jacksonville-based company you might not have heard of, but if you purchase groceries anywhere in the U.S. or Canada, you've seen its work.
Robert Hill Jr., president of Acosta Sales & Marketing since 2009, shared some of the latest trends in brand marketing Monday with members of the Rotary Club of Jacksonville and their guests at the Omni Jacksonville Hotel.
"Many folks say we sell groceries, but it's not that simple," said Hill. "We are an outsource provider of sales and marketing services."
Acosta doesn't own trucks or warehouses, but represents more than 1,000 consumer products companies. The company's 36,000 associates sell the products to stores and then merchandise the products in the stores to maximize sales potential.
Hill said the company represents more than 6,000 products found in most grocery stores. Revenue of $1.8 billion is projected for Acosta in 2014.
Acosta's brand clients include Coca-Cola, Dannon, Georgia-Pacific, Heinz, Hormel, Kellogg's, Kraft Foods, Microsoft, Nestle, Procter & Gamble, Starbucks and Tyson.
Hill said in addition to traditional grocery store operators such as Walmart, Winn-Dixie and Publix, in the past 18 months, the company has expanded its marketing effort to institutions such as restaurants, hospitals and schools.
Acosta also works with Best Buy to operate what Hill called "a store within the store." Acosta employees wear Samsung shirts and sell the manufacturer's electronic products directly to consumers.
The company also conducts market research to determine consumers' shopping patterns. Hill said that part of the grocery business has completely changed.
"Twenty years ago, a shopper would read a grocery store's circular in a newspaper, make a list and go shopping," he said.
Now, more consumers depend on technology such as social media and the Internet to make shopping decisions. While their parents tended to be loyal to one grocery store, younger consumers shop, on average, at five different grocery retailers each month, Hill said.
The entry of Amazon.com into the grocery business could have far-reaching effects on how groceries, including fresh meat and produce, are purchased, based on convenience and a larger selection of products than a grocery store can offer.
Hill said Amazon's pilot program that began in Seattle has been expanded to Northern California.
"If a customer orders groceries online by 10 p.m., their groceries are delivered by 6 a.m. the next day. And Amazon has almost 1,000 olive oils," Hill said.
Amazon also is entering the market with automatic scheduled shipments of products consumers use on a regular basis, such as paper towels, toilet tissue and diapers.
Hill predicted consumers will be very familiar for the next few weeks with one particular product Acosta represents.
He said the top three sales periods for ketchup are Memorial Day weekend, Independence Day and Super Bowl.
"You're going to find a lot of Heinz ketchup during Super Bowl," he said.