This summer I was a Future Sales Leader with Frito-Lay North America, working out of the Distribution Center here in Columbus, OH. The internship involved learning about the business from the ground up, so I was able to work on the frontline merchandising, as well as directly with customers. My key project was SnacksToYou where I would go to small accounts and inform them about the program then sign them up for it.
Originally, I thought companies shipped their product to stores and that the store employees were the ones who stocked the shelves. It came as a bit of a surprise to me that Frito-Lay undergoes Direct-Store-Distribution where they employ retail sales representatives who deliver products to stores and merchandise these on the shelves. Frito-Lay even have their own unique shelves to make their product optimally merchandised and stand out from the competition. I got to go on three route rides with the retail sales representatives, driving in the truck with them, delivering and merchandising product.
Building upon this, it was very eye-opening to see everything that goes on behind the scenes to determine when and how chips are put on the shelves. I attended the weekly value in planning sessions where incoming shipments were discussed and how they would be distributed among the District Sales Leaders. These would be planned weeks in advance, especially for holiday weekends to ensure that there wasn’t excess inventory when the products arrived to the distribution center.
Route rides really changed my view on how Frito-Lay services its customers. I had to get up really early in the morning to get to the distribution center and meet the retail sales representatives. My first route ride was a small format one which are mostly gas station and convenience stores. We went to nine of these and, as it was first time, it was very intriguing to see how everything worked. My second route ride was large format, and we went to about four Kroger stores. The trips were mostly deliveries where another full-time employee called a merchandiser would merchandise the product that the retail sales representative delivered. The one store that we did merchandise coincidentally happened to be the Kroger which my family shops at; this was a cool experience.
My last route ride was a small account one, which are independently one convenience stores with low weekly sales volumes. This ride was different than the rest in that the representative had bulk product in his truck as opposed to pre-packed orders. Orders for small and large format routes are packed and staged in the truck each day for the retail sales representative by the warehouse workers. The small account retail sales representative would go into the store to see what product they needed, then go back to his truck to pick the product and bring it in to merchandise.
The project I was given also impacted my view on how the business works. My project was SnacksToYou and it is a program which Frito-Lay uses to service some small accounts. With SnacksToYou, customers would order their own product and merchandise it themselves after it is delivered via UPS. This is different from the Direct-Store-Delivery system with the retail sales representative. These stores cost Frito-Lay money to visit because they do not sell enough weekly. I visited over 130 stores to inform them about this program and get them signed up for it as it was not cost-effective for Frito-Lay to have them on routes. A lot of these interactions were very challenging as the store owners did not want the responsibility of ordering and merchandising so it was my job to let them know the benefits of SnacksToYou and how it would help in the long run. Removing these low sale stores not only cut the costs from visiting them, but it also allows the retail sales representative to be able to make more visits to higher performing stores instead, further increasing sales. I’m glad that my work this summer had a positive and profitable impact on a global company.
Understanding the inner workings of a Fortune 50 organization is valuable and helps be continue towards my future career goals. I want to work in marketing so in order to convince consumers to purchase my product or service, I must understand how they think. Being on the frontline with Frito-Lay exposed me to interactions with customers, and my sales experience with my project enhanced this as well. My interpersonal skills were developed and I was able to think critically to convince customers that SnackToYou would benefit them.
I was fortunate enough to receive a full time offer from Frito-Lay to be a District Sales Leader here in Columbus. I really appreciate the opportunity that STEP gave me to be able to cover expenses this summer so I could really focus on succeeding in my internship. I’m also grateful for the assistance and mentorship of Dr. Eastridge. I look forward to sharing my experience with other students who may be interested in this type of internship.