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View from the Summit: Multinational Food Retailer SPAR Makes Data Useful and Accessible, Fueling Growth During a Pandemic

July 22, 2021

Some of the most exciting discoveries you get to make as a new CMO are learning how customers use your company’s products to solve real-world business problems. It’s one thing to talk shop with your own product and sales teams; it’s another thing altogether to hear firsthand from customers themselves.

I had the good fortune to join Trifacta this year, right before the company’s inaugural industry conference, Wrangle Summit 2021. My front-row seat to nearly 20 customer presentations gave me a unique, concentrated opportunity to learn about the staggering variety of data engineering use cases Trifacta customers are tackling—and the creative ingenuity they’re using to transform their businesses by transforming their data.

In this blog series, I’d like to share my views from the summit—Wrangle Summit 2021, that is. My intention is to showcase and share the innovation of Trifacta customers to inspire modern data workers everywhere to make data useful and accessible. 

Everyone Works Better Together (Especially During a Global Pandemic)

The first customer I’d like to highlight is the Dutch multinational food retailer, SPAR. SPAR’s company name is an acronym that, roughly translated into English, means “Everyone works better together.”

Everyone at SPAR is able to work better thanks to an innovative data engineering project that changed the way the company onboards sales data from its 13,320 independently owned and operated food retail stores spread over 48 countries. SPAR kicked off this project during a time of great economic and shift: the global pandemic.

COVID-19 had an enormous impact on SPAR operations. Food sales in some locations spiked dramatically, while others situated in vacation destinations faced losses. When lockdowns and travel restrictions were imposed, sales slumped in city centers and transit locations. Fresh food production and restaurants and catering sales dropped off precipitously. Food distribution and transportation became more challenging.

But each and every challenge gave SPAR an opportunity to use data to find new solutions.

Robust Data Architecture Built to Handle Scale and Complexity

SPAR built a data architecture that ingests sales transaction data from a network of 48 global supply chain partners, most of whom use different data platforms. The data is mind-bogglingly detailed and complex, involving different currencies, formats, data systems, product names, and languages. 

Data is collected monthly and stored in an Amazon S3 cloud, where it’s then wrangled, cleansed, and harmonized in Trifacta, before it’s stored back in the cloud until it’s retrieved for analysis from Power BI. 

Here’s a quick snapshot of SPAR’s data architecture:

The Trifacta Data Engineering Cloud makes it easy for SPAR to access all this data, regardless of its source, size, or format. The SPAR team takes advantage of Trifacta’s visual and intuitive interface, interactive and predictive transformations, and adaptive data quality to create a set of wrangling steps—or recipes—that can be reused every month, saving the team a ton of time. 

From this cleansed, wrangled, and harmonized data, SPAR then creates robust data pipelines to form a massive data lake at the partner level. This partner data is pulled from the far corners of the world—everywhere from Kosovo to Paraguay to Saudi Arabia. 

Dashboards Reveal a Wealth of Business Insight

This massive data lake feeds SPAR’s end application that creates dashboards of supply chain data. From these dashboards, SPAR can analyze the sales performance of individual manufacturers to see how a food category or a sub-category performs in a retail environment, right down to the brand level, with respect to its level of promotion. Here’s an example of one of SPAR’s partner supplier dashboards:

By building data flows that enhanced and accelerated visibility into this critical sales data, SPAR was able to analyze its data more frequently and in greater detail. They were able to remain agile, adjusting their global supply chains and adapting to this period of wild market fluctuations fueled by the global pandemic. 

A Billion-Dollar Transformation

What did SPAR do with this newfound insight and agility? And what was the result? They grew. SPAR celebrated an impressive 7.4% top-line revenue growth in the last year. Considering SPAR is a €40B ($47B) enterprise, this 7.4% growth equates to €2.7B ($3.2B)! 

Over the years, I’ve seen some incredible success stories where a business transforms into a data-driven enterprise. That success is usually measured in the millions. SPAR’s success is an order of magnitude greater. SPAR’s $3.2B annual revenue growth demonstrates just how much a business can transform by transforming its data. 

Now It’s Your Turn

In the spirit of the transparent and collaborative culture we’re creating Trifacta, let’s open this up for discussion. 

  • How has the pandemic affected your organization’s operations? 
  • What is the biggest data blind spot for your team or your company? 
  • How would transforming your data help to transform your business? 

Please share your thoughts with me at