Each has led its respective category for more than a decade, noted Kantar, which launched the survey in the late 1990s with the aim of identifying industry best practices in the areas of category management and trade promotion management.
Rankings are based upon responses to customized questionnaires Kantar sends each spring to major mass retailers and their suppliers. Kantar received more than 600 responses this year.
Retailers were asked to rank manufacturers on strategic metrics, such as clearest company strategy, and on business fundamentals, such as most innovative marketing approach. Manufacturers were asked to rank retailers on similar criteria.
On the retailing side, Walmart was rated overall best in class by the manufacturer respondents, who cited the retailer’s massive scale, sustained strength in logistics and operations, and investments in e-commerce that should help Walmart ensure consistent growth over the long term, Kantar said.
For the first time in the survey’s history, Kroger Co. was ranked second, up from its third-place ranking in 2014. Kroger “was lauded by manufacturers for continued innovation and optimization of the data-driven tactics driving effective execution of its shopper-focused strategy,” Kantar noted.
Target Corp. dropped from second to third in 2015 but maintained its No. 1 position in both the “best store branding” and “most innovative merchandising approach” categories.
Rounding out the top 10 retailer composite rankings are Costco Wholesale Corp., Amazon.com Inc., Publix Super Markets Inc., H-E-B, Meijer Inc., Wegman’s Food Markets Inc. and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.
All except Meijer were in the retailing top 10 a year ago. Meijer moved up three spots this year to eighth place.
On the supplier side, P&G was especially recognized by its retail trading partners for its strong brands and its capabilities in aligning strategies in a shifting retail environment, Kantar said.
In the composite ranking of suppliers, PepsiCo Inc. rose one spot this year to No. 2, switching places with General Mills Inc., although the companies received nearly identical scores in the 2015 rankings.
PepsiCo was recognized most for its innovative marketing approaches, where it outranked all other manufacturers, Kantar pointed out.
General Mills won praise for its strong customer teams. For the third consecutive year, General Mills scored highest in the category of best sales force/customer teams.
Rounding out the top 10 supplier composite rankings are Coca-Cola Co., Kraft Heinz Co. Unilever PLC, Kellogg Co., Johnson & Johnson, Nestlé S.A. and ConAgra Foods Inc.
Suppliers and retailers alike are confronting an era of “permanent transition” that can be unsettling, remarked Kantar. The firm’s latest PoweRankings report quotes an anonymous survey respondent as saying, “Never before has so much change produced such little value for the industry.”
Others decried a willingness by some in the industry to achieve profitability by “cutting our way to the bottom line” but “not delivering the top line growth required to sustain a healthy industry.”
However, change presents opportunities for companies capable of satisfying unmet consumer needs, smartly investing in digital and shopper marketing, or winning with a diverse group of shoppers, Kantar said.