March 7, 2013

Food Businesses Shouldn’t Underestimate Farmers’ Markets

not too big for farmers marketsWe getting close to that time when Summer farmers’ market applications are due.  For some small food businesses the farmers’ market circuit is the mainstay of your business but for others they may feel like they’ve ‘outgrown’ this retail venue.  If you’re in the latter group perhaps you ought to reconsider.  

Farmers’ markets are a great launching pad for smaller food businesses and even though the markets can produce healthy sales, they do take time – lots of time – to manage and participate in.  Which is why as many small food businesses start to grow one of the first things they tend to drop is their participation in these markets.

Successful food businesses though view farmers’ markets not simply as a revenue source, but as one of the best marketing opportunities available to them.  This is one of the few times where you can literally get face-to-face with your customers and tell them all about you, your company, your products, and your story.  No matter how great your packaging is, that packaging cannot tell your story better than you can.  And for consumers, oftentimes the ‘story’ behind the product is just as important as the product and packaging itself.

I realize that there are still a few of you out there who are rolling your eyes and mentally arguing that you have better things to do then spend all day at a farmers’ market.  Your business is too big for that now, right?  Think again…

Let me present Exhibit A – Dave’s Killer Bread.  If you’re not in the Pacific Northwest you may not be familiar with this company but it’s a specialty bread company that’s sold on the shelves of local supermarkets throughout the region.

Despite the fact that Dave’s Killer Bread had great shelf presence, the company was still a regular at local farmers’ markets and area festivals.  Sure, it was no longer the owner himself manning the booth, but the company’s marketing folks were there with smiles on their faces, samples in their hands, and telling the Dave’s Killer Bread story to anyone who would listen.

You see, one of the really unique things about Dave’s Killers Bread is not necessarily the bread itself (though it is really good bread) or the packaging, but it’s the story behind the company.  The condensed version is that ‘Dave’ was actually a convicted felon who turned his life around while in prison and, once paroled, helped turn his family’s little bakery business around too.  The company also now does a substantial amount of outreach to help recently released ex-cons to help them become gainfully and legally employed.

I’m sure you’ll agree that that’s a story that certainly differentiates Dave’s Killer Bread from most other bread companies out there.  Consumers agreed and they ate it up (pun intended).  So even though Dave’s Killer Bread was making 400,000 loaves of bread a week and had $53M in sales in 2012, they weren’t going to the farmers’ markets to add a few extra dollars to their cash register.  For them, the farmers’ markets and festivals were, and continue to be, all about sharing their marketing story with anyone who will listen.

Dave’s Killer Bread recently sold 50% equity ownership in the company to a partnering organization that will help bring their bread, and their story, nationwide.

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One comment on “Food Businesses Shouldn’t Underestimate Farmers’ Markets

  • Felicia Foster on said:

    Hi Jennifer- I hope one day the same things can be said about what I believe will be a growing marketing phenomenon – the bakers market.
    ~Felicia (Cottage Bakers Market in Bellevue, WA)