Eight years ago, Mark Degner
tried to convince his
bosses at Information Resources Inc.
that the Chicago-based food research firm ought to start tracking sales of deli meats, produce and other perishable foods instead of limiting its research to fixed-weight products with Universal Product bar codes.
"I tried to explain to anyone who would listen that 30 to 40 percent of the data on what's selling in supermarkets was missing," Degner
said."But at the time, IRI
had a hundred things on their plate, and they didn't want to make the necessary investment.This data was considered garbage to them."So Degner and fellow IRI employees Joe Kolano and Ed Mackowiak left the company and started FreshLook Marketing Group in 2000.
Now FreshLook, which Degner
expects to make $5 million to $10 million in sales next year, is a leading firm for data on perishable, random-weight foods, proving that one company's garbage can be another company's gold.FreshLook is based in Hoffman Estates.
Clients include major manufacturers like Kraft Foods, Sara Lee
and Tyson Foods, as well as growers and industry groups such as the Florida Department of Citrus
and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association
.Degner, FreshLook's president and CEO, estimates the company collects data for 35 to 50 regular clients, plus about 50 additional one-time customers.Degner
said demand for FreshLook's
data is high, because although perishables account for roughly 30 percent of all supermarket sales, only a handful of companies track them.
...Larry Burns, Degner's former supervisor at IRI, said knowing what sells and what doesn't is particularly important in the perishables business, because unlike a box of Jell-O that can sit on a shelf indefinitely, produce and meat have to move fast.
gives some companies guidance on how to use the numbers, while other, larger companies, "just want to get them on time and they want to get them right," Degner
"Sometimes folks sleep here," Degner