January 19, 2017
Start with your most innovative product.
If you’re a small food business, it’s hard enough to get retail buyers on the phone, let alone get them to agree to sell your product without the help of a product broker. Because you don’t have the benefit of being able to get your food in the door with just your brand name, you have to catch the buyers’ eyes another way. That’s why it’s important to start pitching your most innovative or unique product first, so buyers can clearly see why you are different from the thousands of other products they already have on shelves. If you can prove yourself with your most unique product, then you can introduce buyers to your other products down the road.
Work your way up.
Of course, the end goal is to be sold at national grocery store chains, but not every brand will start out this way. Work your way up the grocery store ladder by pitching to independently owned grocery stores in your area first. Luckily, decision makers for these stores are usually on-site, so all you have to do is drop by and ask if you can have a few minutes of the buyer or manager’s time. These stores tend to favor local businesses, so go into the pitch with that in mind. If you’re successful in the independent stores, this will improve your pitch to larger chains since you will be seen as less of a risk.
Find a place for your product.
Before you make contact with the retailer, you have to study their stores to determine where your product would fit on the shelves. But, be realistic. It’s going to be incredibly tough to get space next to Coke or Pepsi, so you may need to use a bit of creativity to find a spot for your product. For example, when Pretzel Crisps launched, they knew it would be difficult to convince buyers to squeeze their products in the snack aisle, so they positioned themselves as appetizers that should be sold next to deli meats and cheeses. The strategy paid off and helped differentiate Pretzel Crisps from the dozens of other pretzel snacks that get lost in the clutter of the snack aisle.
Show you’re on trend.
Buyers are interested in numbers, but if you’re a fairly new food business, you may not have impressive sales figures just yet. Instead of focusing on your sales, show the buyer market research that proves your product is on trend, therefore it should sell. Look at predictions from trade magazines and websites—as long as it’s a reliable, respected source—and prepare a presentation based around this data.
Have you already made your first sales call to a grocery store? Share your experience in the comments below!
Joel Goldstein is the President of Mr. Checkout Distributors, a network of 1,000 distributors around the country seeking new and innovative products for their convenience stores, grocery stores and truck stops. Since 1989 Mr. Checkout has helped grow national brands like 5 Hour Energy and Pepperidge Farm using their DSD (Direct Store Delivery) network. If you have a product that they should see, you can submit your product for review here.