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April 19, 2023
Samantha Johnston

With Crisp, Illy brews up fresh retail insights to boost revenue by 10%

Illy’s data-savvy sales team relies on Crisp for visibility across their distribution, helping drive sales at key accounts and support double-digit growth. 

An Italian brand with global appeal

Iconic Italian brand Illy is serious about three things: coffee, sustainability, and data. The company is known for premium blends packaged in its patented canister, which allows coffee to stay fresh with a shelf life of up to two years. While Illy has been a family business since 1933, it continues to stay current, recently releasing a ready-to-drink cold brew that’s making a splash across U.S. grocery stores.

In addition to taking pride in their product, Illy is also a certified Benefit Corporation with a dedication to sustainability and social impact. The company practices direct trade, a method that provides even more control to farmers than fair trade, and invests in infrastructure like schools and roadways to positively impact the communities that grow Illy’s beans – which rank in the top 1% of all Arabica beans – using agricultural techniques with a low environmental impact.

Premium products need superior visibility 

A long-standing mainstay in the hospitality realm, Illy has spent the past few years on a mission to become a household name in U.S grocery. Illy initially landed in select U.S. cities, then quickly spread to national distribution. Now, the sales team is focused on adding depth in addition to breadth by expanding product assortments and increasing same-store sales. 

UNFI has been a key partner to unlocking that growth in the natural channel, helping Illy expand nationally in Whole Foods and in popular regional chains. To make their distribution business a success, Illy’s sales team knew they needed visibility to track inventory, orders, and sales across their distribution. Taelor Conley-Marselle joined Illy in early 2022 as Director of Sales to expand the company’s U.S. footprint, and was happy to see that the team was already onboarding with Crisp. “Many of our retailer partnerships are fully through distributors, so the quality of that distributor data is very important. We wanted the ability to track inventory and orders and find any gaps in the market, and we brought in Crisp to help us answer those questions,” says Taelor.

“…The quality of distributor data is very important. We wanted the ability to track inventory and orders and find any gaps in the market, and we brought in Crisp to help us answer those questions.”

Taelor Conley-Marselle, Director of Sales, Illy

Wake up, drink coffee, check Crisp

Now, Taelor checks Crisp nearly every day to track inventory levels at UNFI’s Distribution Centers, checking into how DCs are stocked and depleted to support Illy’s many retailer partners. As a lean team, she appreciates that the platform allows her to easily pull and manipulate data for daily insights.

“Distribution partnerships are a big responsibility, because with one DC you’re supporting all the retailers that roll up into it. We work to manage inventory on hand to ensure there is enough product to meet demand and hit our volume targets for the year,” Taelor explains. After joining Illy, Taelor’s first focus was building the relationship with her supplier manager at UNFI, helping her understand Illy’s seasonality, peak time frames, and volume by DC for larger retailers to inform ordering.  

With this alignment in place, Taelor can dig further into the data to help each retailer account grow. She uses data in Crisp to show her UNFI buyer how inventory has depleted at each DC year-over-year to demonstrate growth. She then compares this growth rate to consumption patterns (i.e. store-level sales from syndicated data) to identify opportunities to increase order volumes. “We regularly find situations where we are exceeding consumption targets at the retailer, but not meeting our volume targets for DC replenishment,” Taelor explains. When she finds a scenario where the pace of orders hasn’t kept up with consumption, she can work with her buyers to increase order volumes – ultimately fueling double-digit growth before even adding new points of distribution.

Taelor also uses data to expand product assortments with key retailer partners. When Harris Teeter brought in Illy’s new cold brew SKUs last year, Taelor monitored pipeline orders while speaking with demand planners to ensure that enough inventory was ordered to meet growing demand, making the most of the new shelf space.

Collaborating with buyers using data adds up to real wins: Taelor reports that by leveraging data in Crisp, Illy’s overall retail business has grown by 10% over the past year and a half.

By leveraging data in Crisp, Illy’s retail business has grown by 10% over the past year and a half.

Keeping the coffee in full supply

Taelor uses Crisp to ensure that Illy’s distribution gains are a success, making sure products that are supposed to be on shelf stay on shelf. For instance, when sales disruptions began to appear across Whole Foods locations in Southern California, Taelor conducted a gap analysis between points of distribution and current sales, and found the source of the issue.

Illy had recently moved from a regional to a global brand at Whole Foods – a big win. But the reclassification changed the planograms at the stores, and some had mistakenly taken the product off of shelves entirely. By pinpointing those locations in Crisp, Taelor was able to contact an area manager to work with the individual stores and regain those points of distribution. 

“We’ve gotten really great results from being able to share inventory data from Crisp directly with buyers.”

Taelor Conley-Marselle, Director of Sales, Illy

To proactively reduce out of stocks across retailers, Taelor looks at inventory on a day-to-day basis to see how product is depleting out of UNFI DCs. “We’ve gotten really great results from being able to share inventory data from Crisp directly with buyers,” Taelor adds. For instance, she might see that one DC only has two weeks of inventory, but there is a promotional activity coming up – and with this information, she can make direct recommendations to her buyer to prepare for the increased demand. Ultimately, Taelor has been able to increase the weeks of supply available at key DCs, which not only prevents out of stocks, but also helps meet the company’s buying targets. 

Going full steam ahead

Illy’s growth shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. The team continues to innovate in the ready-to-drink space, exploring new functional ingredients, dairy-free varieties, and more. And as a partner of Ferrari, you can expect to see Illy on the Formula-1 racetrack as they continue to build a brand presence across the country. “We want to be a brand that customers recognize as a household name. We’re invested in connecting with the younger generations, while always continuing to differentiate on quality and process,” Taelor says. With data (and plenty of coffee) by their side, we have no doubt they will.

To learn how Crisp data can power your brand, contact us for a demo. For more inspiring stories and data best practices, subscribe to the blog.

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