Drive CPG Sales with Digital Marketing & Retailer Demos


The food industry’s traditional marketing methods based on in-store ads and POS materials is slowly transitioning into a digital user omni-channel marketing approach, and we believe it’s  here to stay. Digital and social media platforms to launch a new product provide better real time marketing and shopper engagement on social media platform such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Aggressive new item trade promotion coupled with in-store demos drive shopper awareness, build brand equity, promote trial, and customer loyalty.



In fact, Albertsons recently announced they too are utilizing digital and social amplification to support its shopper marketing initiatives with its “Best Mug” alliance with Kraft. This will be the first time the grocer has worked directly with a CPG vendor for a large-scale, fully integrated campaign.  


Read more about Albertsons new digital strategy here…



To learn more about digital marketing strategies and in-store demo services with STAR Brokerage as your partner, please contact Elisabeth Urtado-Holzheauser, Vice President of Sales & Marketing at 281-496-2032.

TRADE MEMO: Buyer, Alexander Cisneros Joins STAR Brokerage Inc.


Alex Cisneros officially joins the leadership team at STAR Brokerage Sales & Marketing agency August 18, 2014. In his new role, Alex will be responsible for new client business development and will serve as senior business manager for a portfolio of strategic manufacturer/supplier accounts. With more than ten years’ experience in grocery category management, Alex also plans to leverage his buyer-side insight to represent client brands at the customer headquarter level.


We’re very excited that Alex has accepted this position to help STAR evolve into the future by bringing new energy coupled with a dynamic skill set,” said Ken Holzheauser, STAR Brokerage President in a statement. “Having closely worked with Alex for several years now, we know he has tremendous leadership skills and is also very familiar with the operations and goals of our company.”


Most recently, Alex worked for Excel Grocery Distribution, where he served as the buyer and private label development manager specializing in the research and design of key Hispanic store-brand product lines for La Michoacána Meat Market, the largest “carniceria” grocery chain in the U.S. with over one hundred locations in twenty-three markets, primarily in Texas. In this role, Alex managed several grocery categories and key supplier accounts such as Colgate, P&G, Vilore, Nestle, Conagra, Bush Bros and Clorox.


Prior to that, Alex was a buyer at Goya Foods and managed Goya’s Texas dry bean packaging center, which processed over 8 million pounds of a variety of dry beans annually. In this role, Alex was also responsible for the procurement of over 2,000 international and domestic specialty food products and supervised 70 supplier relationships.


Earlier in his career, Alex developed a specialization in freight transportation and fleet management, serving as Goya’s Transportation Manager and overseeing their commercial fleet department with distribution coverage across five states. Prior to that, Alex worked with C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc., managing the freight needs and negotiating customer carrier rates for key accounts including: Valvoline, Nestle Waters and Budweiser out of the Texas area.


Alex is a veteran of the U.S. Army and graduate of Lone Star College. A Houstonian for the past 27 years, Alex attended Strake Jesuit High School. Currently married to wife, Kimberley Cisneros, together they are the proud parents of two kids and new twins due to arrive in early 2015.         

Carlos A. Obando Joins Star Brokerage as Director of Shopper Marketing and Events











carlos obando bio

Carlos A. Obando joined Star Brokerage Sales & Marketing agency as Director of Shopper Marketing and Events August 4, 2014. Carlos will oversee retail product demonstrations in effort to drive sales and distribution for STAR’s extensive CPG client base. In addition, Carlos is responsible for coordinating all external promotions and tradeshow presence for the largest independent brokerage firm covering Texas and AWG markets. 




Most recently, Carlos has served in a marketing and public relations capacity representing Fortune 500 companies such as, State Farm, AT&T and Toyota Motor Company, worldwide. Carlos has represented various CPG brands in a shopper marketing capacity including, Bimbo, Gamesa, Pepsi Co., Frito Lay, and Jack Daniels. With more than decade of vast industry and brand experience, his leadership and knowledge has directly influenced brand equity growth, sales, and consumer engagement for these companies.



Obando has also worked for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City, National Council of La Raza in Washington, DC, Villa Estrellas/Bianco in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and Marketing & Associates in Tampa, Florida.



Carlos has served on numerous Board of Directors including, the nationally recognized Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (HCREO) and the Houston Jaycees. He is a Leadership Houston graduate and a veteran member of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Committee. 



Obando earned his BA in International Business, Spanish and Latin American Studies from the University of Kansas and was a member of the Theta Chi Fraternity. A native of Bellaire, Carlos attended Episcopal High School and since then has been an avid swimmer and runner. He currently lives in downtown Houston with his Weimaraner Polo.




The Shelby Report Announcement, VP Sales and Marketing Joins STAR Brokerage – 1 Year Anniversary


We can’t believe it’s already been one year our Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Elisabeth (a.k.a. Liz) Urtado-Holzheauser joined STAR Brokerage, a boutique, Texas-based CPG brokerage company. She was recruited to join the company in June 2013 after receiving an M.B.A from the prestigious Rice University, Jones Graduate School of Business to lead strategic planning, innovation efforts, and key account management.


Since then, Liz has created and launched the newly redesigned, STAR Brokerage website and has established an online presence within social media platforms. Liz also manages a diverse portfolio of very happy clients including: importer – Market 5201, V&V Supremo, Hawaiian Isles Coffee, Duraflame, and Charlie’s Soap – all while building some valuable relationships amongst customers such as H-E-B and Grocers Supply.


Serving as the catalyst to new business growth, Liz’s team-oriented leadership style has made a significant positive impact on those who work with her. Liz states, “encouraging all levels of the company to participate in brainstorming and idea creation gives us the opportunity to explore all perspectives and communicate our shared goals. I am very excited about the future of STAR Brokerage, as the value we provide our CPG clients and retail and wholesale customers as an outsourced sales and marketing agency continues to improve everyday.” 


Here’s Liz’s original trade announcement that was featured in The Shelby Report, one of the leading publications for the food and grocery industry.  The Shelby Report is circulated each month to retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers, distributors, and brokers, delivering the latest regional and national supermarket news.



The Shelby Report Announcement, VP Sales & Marketing

Grocers Supply Food Expo Highlights


grocers supply expo




Another successful Grocers Supply Food Expo took place this week in Houston, TX. Over 250 CPG manufacturers, industry suppliers, and most importantly – buying retail customers were in attendance at the Reliant Center – home of the Houston Texans. Valuable post-show networking took place at the Crowne Plaza, where the GSC team hosted an elegant reception featuring a live Texas country band.



The STAR Brokerage team represented several companies at the show. Together with our clients we sold exclusive expo deals to retail customers and sampled some tasty food and beverages. We were in full force, finding new sales and distribution opportunities for our clients. This year we represented the following companies: Vilore, St. Jude Candle Co., Market 5201, Mahler, Nissin Foods, Music Mountain Water, Badia Spices, Klein’s Kosher Pickles, Navajo Manufacturing, Mason Vitamins, and several more.



Here are some pictures at the event.




jose_badia spices_cal holzheauser_luis gary hartford_gsc_ken_jimmy ballinger Foodtown_Joe_Jimmy_Ken don dyess_gsc david newcome_fiesta foods david hunt_mccormick spices_vilore_ken holzheauser brian bricarell_grocers supply ana cannon_grocers supply_tanya schneider_dos amigos

V&V Supremo
Steve Minshew, STAR retail directorSeller BrothersVilore Foods
  ElrodsMalherSTAR Brokerage
  Klein's PicklesBadia Spices Alex Cisneros_Excel Distributing









How to Initiate Culture Change for CPGs


Culture Change Red Apple




Your company has profitably existed in the marketplace for decades. It’s not easy to accomplish the success of your brand’s history, and the leadership has much to be proud about. The same leadership has recruited you to lead the company’s key performance areas, but really would prefer you follow in line with the way things are done. They say they want change, but only under their accord.


You now realize you’re in a pickle, and you’re on your own right now. Leadership avoid confrontation and prefer to stay under the radar. To take the company to the next level, you know more sales and distribution is not what will improve performance. It’s something bigger; something much easier to talk about than actually do. I am talking about culture change.



 So, where do you start with Culture Change? Here’s some ideas on how to initiate…




Think Outside the Box


To start, evaluate your procedures and the key players implementing them. Are the decisions being made have your target consumer in mind? Make all decisions based on that. Ask questions to develop a vision for the future and find influence throughout the organization to help you communicate the vision. It’s easy to get caught in the everyday routine, but it’s time to jump off the hamster wheel. Don’t let obstacles be the barrier to a well-executed vision.


Create a sense of urgency  for process transformation. Step up driving performance within the organization by re-evaluating your team. Understand who really contributes and who just talks louder typically boasting about their activity. Who makes decisions? Who is blocking decisions from being made?


Is your team being trained and informed appropriately? You have to provide the right tools and resources to the right people to get this job done. Next, empower them to boldly speak up and make productive, smart decisions on their own. Micro-management kills inspiration and debilitates creativity and collaboration. This could be the root of the problem, but it’ probably not the biggest issue.




Educate the Leadership, Cross-Train and Recruit New Talent


Can’t talk about culture change without talking about the leadership of the company. Many time the leadership is the barrier to change, and know you can’t transition without the support from the top leadership. If the top doesn’t understand, find someone influential to them to help you get the message across. This is most likely the most difficult part, and failing to get the leadership to sing change from the mountain tops is the fastest way to stop change. Think about what’s important to them and tailor your message to incentivize this change. Build commitment from the top to communicate openly, then change can happen.


If a cancer exists amongst the leadership team conflicting with the progressive movement of culture change, than difficult decisions must be made to remove it. Be bold. Sometimes it’s about putting these disgruntled people into a new role within the company to get them off of easy street, re-inspire them, and challenge them. If the cancer has spread, meaning there is no hope, you are just better off parting ways.


Give others, hungry for the opportunity, a chance to to rise up and contribute. You will surprise yourself. Transfer responsibility by cross-training; for example, the brand manager and sales manager could switch roles to develop a more well-rounded perspective and skill set. Improve your talent pool, recruit a highly skilled talent from the outside to spice things up internally.




Work Towards a Team Goal


The most important aspect of culture change is to remember to start from the top and then the bottom up – meeting in middle. A plan is executed, measured and refined; nothing is set in stone. Remember the truth behind opportunity cost. 


Celebrate the small victories together. Learn from the mistakes that happen, as we all learn more from mistakes than anything else. Make decisions based on facts, common sense, and integrity. Role up your sleeves and get dirty. Forget about titles within the organization, and inspire some real collaborative teamwork. Walk the walk…don’t just talk.


Soon enough you will begin to see that achieving shared goals is fun, improves performance, and maintains a happier workforce. Happier people sell better and develop better relationships. The positive winning culture can become contagious when the team is working together towards the same goal. Good luck CPG.



5 Tips to Improve CPG Performance Now

What Do Leading CPG’s Do to Improve Performance?

CPG go-to-market solutions; food broker; CPG best practices; sales performance tools




You know those brands that retail category managers seem to be really hooked up with? They are the category leaders, they bolster access to all the right data, and constantly launch cool, new products every year. 


Yah, yah, yah…so annoying aren’t they? Good news is you can be just like them. I know, you’re thinking…bit over zealous, right?


Not at all… the truth is any manufacturer, regardless of size, can follow these tips to improve your overall CPG performance now. In this blog, you will learn how to better understand your customers’ perspective on category management and how to best position your brand for volume and brand equity growth.


Since 1991, STAR Brokerage Inc. has helped hundreds of CPG, food, and beverage manufacturers and suppliers develop their brands in the Texas market. This gives me the insight, as I take note of best practices, habits, and go-to-market strategy characteristics of leading companies. These companies just do it right, consistently producing profitable outcomes year after year.


Here’s what I have found leading consumer product good manufacturers have in common.



1) Leading CPG’s treat category managers like business owners versus buyers. 


These manufacturers crank up the volume! How? They treat category managers (a.k.a, buyers) like business owners…what exactly does this mean? 


Many interdependent roles support category management, but the category manager is ultimately responsible for the success and/or failure of the category. The key is to add real value to the relationship. To do this, start thinking through the eyes of the customer by offering destructive insights and valuable information that can help refine retailer strategies.


Share category and sub-category trends, discuss market competition, provide alternative channel trade insights, and offer unbiased product mix recommendations. Identify mutually beneficial opportunities for cross-merchandising and cross-promotional activities. By showing commitment to their success, you can become their credible source. This will pay dividends. 




2) Leading CPGs really understand their target consumer.


Leading CPGs align with customers that really match their brand profile and whose consumers represent their #1 target demographic. These target consumers represent the most market penetration potential. To do this, define customer positioning organized by their various consumer groups, such as inner-city and working family, etc. Gain access to trade market demographic data and begin to intimately understand the diverse household lifestyles, age, size, buying habits, income level, etc.


With this info, integrate sales scanning data to find the optimal product mix and promotional strategies that show spikes in volume. To maximize volume, research how to directly market to these consumers through the top rated market advertising vehicles and make small investment to test for conversion.In my experience, manufacturer interest in approaching a retail customer is premature due to limited insight into whether the needs and wants of the consumer truly align. Invest in building business with your best match and tailor proposals, labeling, pricing, etc. around the needs of your target demographic.    




3) Leading CPGs partner with strategic alliances to leverage power and influence.


Who are these strategic alliances? Sales, marketing, and retail go-to-market agency outsourcing via food broker representation. The catch is to create an alliance that offers scale in operation without the negative tradeoffs outsourcing is typically connected to. According to many leading CPGs we work with, a regional broker provides the most results in the least amount of time. Why?


Regional brokers take action quicker due to less layers of management, giving your business full attention and care, preventing you from falling within the cracks. Regional brokers offer more market driven expertise and local knowledge, so you can make better decisions and stronger relationships. They create demand through their relationships and on-going dialogue with category managers. National agencies may only visit the customer once a year, which is truly not enough service for brand development. Leading retailers across the country are scaling-down national purchasing strategies to a more market specific customization. Manufacturers should follow this trend.




4) Leading CPGs care about customer purchasing strategies just as much as executing flawless merchandising strategies.


Winning the battle at the shelf, in my opinion, separates the competition within a trade market area. It’s one thing to get your product approved, but it’s totally another to get it on the shelf quick and maintain position. Part-time retail service professionals offer less than desired execution to your well-planned merchandising strategy due to limited knowledge base and minimal touch points. A full-service, full-time retail team is fully integrated in executing promotional and merchandising strategies.


Ensure you work with brokers that offer full-time services that offer the competitive pricing reports, the digital images, the local level store information. Effective retail merchandisers identify cross-merchandising opportunities to build incremental sales and brand awareness. Since most buying decisions are made at the shelf, this is extremely important.




5) Leading CPGs truly understand how to communicate and work as a team.


It takes a true team effort to successful manage the entire go-to-market process. The diverse roles involved in the process: sales, marketing, brand management, trade promotion, and customer service must work together. Open dialogue and common well-articulated goals and objectives help support growth initiatives. Conflicting aspirations by someone on the team can be detrimental to your success.


Focus on team knowledge building, brainstorming sessions, and cross-training to stay ahead of the competition. If you are not improving, you are getting worse. Information technology and automation of processes can improve team productivity, but keep in mind that this business is people driven at the regional and local level. Don’t let technology become the barrier to your success!



What other tips do you know leading CPGs do to improve CPG performance now?