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Into the Digital Aisle: What Does the Competitive Landscape Look Like for the Cooking & Baking Grocery Supplies eCommerce Category?

The speed of the current evolution in the ‘Pantry Staples’ category is unprecedented. This pace of change is also seen broadly across all of e-commerce, as national brands are frequently out-maneuvered by digitally-native (and often unknown) brands. Micro-trends are now the new norm. And data is essential for brands to understand how to survive and thrive in the new normal of digital retail. One perspective that is often overlooked (primarily because of the difficulty in obtaining the data) is that of the cross-category competitive landscape. Historically limited to category specialists of apex brands, now data is accessible to emerging and start-up brands–which are increasingly competent in growing share without the brand and capital strength of the category incumbents. This article is intended to help those brands which have historically focused on brick & mortar retail to better understand the competitive landscape of e-commerce within the ‘Grocery & Gourmet Food’ sector. Category leadership can be obtained in both offline and online retail arenas, however, it requires an intense focus on tactical actions based on frequent access to performance data and trends. Without further ado, we present to you the current trends in the competitive landscape of the ‘Cooking & Baking Grocery Supplies’ category. To best understand this, we’ll start by flying high at the 10,000 foot level at the top-most, ‘Grocery & Gourmet Food’ parent category, then we’ll zoom in through one of its primary sub-categories, ‘Pantry Staples’ to then land in ‘Cooking & Baking Grocery Supplies’.

Category Hierarchy

This is the most recent share of category unit sales for the ‘Grocery & Gourmet Food’ category, one of the primary e-commerce categories.

Source: unit sales share of ‘Grocery & Gourmet Food’, top-performing ASINs within the last 30 days.

As we can see, there is concentration in this category, with the top 5 subcategories (Beverages, Pantry Staples, Snack Foods, Candy and Chocolate, Breakfast Foods) driving 70.1% of the category sales. If we then zoom into ‘Pantry Staples’ we see the following:

Source: unit sales share of ‘Pantry Staples’, top-performing ASINs within the last 30 days.

Similar to what we saw, above, there is concentration in this category, with the top 5 subcategories of ‘Pantry Staples’ (Cooking & Baking Grocery Supplies, Herbs, Spices & Seasonings, Jams, Jellies & Sweet Spreads, Nut & Seed Butters, Sauces, Gravies & Marinades) driving 74% of the category sales. If we then zoom one more time into ‘Cooking & Baking Grocery Supplies’ we see the following:

Source: unit sales share of ‘Cooking & Baking Grocery Supplies’, top-performing ASINs within the last 30 days.

The ‘Cooking & Baking Grocery Supplies’ category is growing, with 27 child categories. There is concentration in this category, with the top 5 child categories (‘Nuts & Seeds’, ‘Syrups, Sugars & Sweeteners’, ‘Cooking Oils, Vinegars & Sprays’, ‘Sugar Substitutes’, ‘Baking Mixes’) driving 57.2% of the unit sales volume.

Category Performance

How are these child categories performing? Some, like ‘Nuts & Seeds’ and ‘Syrups, Sugars & Sweeteners’ are peforming well. Here is a view of what we call the ‘Performance Frontier’, which is the boundary we typically see between sales performance and ratings. Said differently, brands struggle to grow e-commerce revenue without high ratings. Those brands that push the frontier through active ad spend against the right keywords can typically out-perform those brands that have high ratings but little sell-through. Categories in the ‘High Potential’ zone are ripe for aggressive brands to grow share.

Source: unit performance of top-selling ‘Cooking & Baking Grocery Supplies’ on during the last 30 days.

Zooming in to the chart, above, we see the following top categories per quadrant:

Category Comparison

E-commerce categories are constantly shifting, growing, and maximizing their revenue as responsive brands adjust their positions. The algorithms and merchants that run the e-commerce platforms also adjust the boundaries between categories, usually when one achieves sufficient size and search interest. As child categories gain critical mass, they at times become a peer category to their former parent category. The category evolution we have seen shows us that when a child category gains hierarchical levels, performance momentum increases, likely on account of the increased attention from e-commerce merchant teams. This implies that brands that position their products within the rising generation of subcategories and optimize their supply chain can capture the additional upside of category evolution. As we look into the ‘Cooking & Baking Grocery Supplies’ category we see that 3 categories (‘Nuts & Seeds’, ‘Syrups, Sugars & Sweeteners’, ‘Cooking Oils, Vinegars & Sprays’) are currently performing at levels which warrant category evolution. Savvy brands will position products in these categories, as appropriate.

Source: unit performance of top-selling ‘Cooking & Baking Grocery Supplies’ on during the last 30 days.

An additional perspective we find useful lies in comparing the average order value (AOV) and customer appreciation (as measured by quality and quantity of reviews) of the child categories to the Parent Category. We label these quadrants as:

  • Jane Doe: low AOV – low customer appreciation on the matrix, and meaning that the category is not yet known nor is making material sales progress
  • MC Hammer: low AOV – high appreciation, and named after the 90’s-era, famous musician who became poor as quickly as he rose to fame
  • Amancio Ortega: high AOV – low appreciation, and named after the recluse billionaire who could be very famous, but isn’t
  • Alice Walton: high AOV – high appreciation, named after the U.S. billionaire philanthropist

Low-appreciation categories labeled as Jane or Amancio require additional investment to stoke the fires of demand. Low-AOV categories labeled as Jane or MC Hammer have upside potential if brands can use data to understand the high-volume price points and ensure that each one is covered by one of their portfolio’s products. Alice-labeled categories are strategically aspirational, and where sustained cash flow and brand strength can be generated.

Source: unit performance of top-selling ‘Cooking & Baking Grocery Supplies’ on during the last 30 days.

In conclusion, brands that are successful on Amazon are increasingly those that employ a multi-brand, multi-category portfolio strategy. Doing this requires a data-driven perspective with frequent refreshes. Several brands are doing this well within the ‘Cooking & Baking Grocery Supplies’ category, and as a consequence are driving significant results over under-performing brands, such as: 40x the revenue, 128x the revenue per ASIN, 9x the BSR rank, 45x the average review count, and 1x the average rating. Will your brand be one of those that performs?

More pricing insights are available at, as well as a more detailed, free report on Cooking & Baking Grocery Supplies (and over 47,000+ other product categories).

All data is compiled and reported by Reviate.
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