February 23, 2017
Many food companies start off thinking they’ll make it big and land on some of the most well known grocery store shelves, but the truth is, not every company is ready. If you expand too quickly, you may not be able to fulfill orders or provide high quality customer service, which could eventually destroy your reputation. How do you know when you’re ready? Look for these signs:
The market has responded well.
Before going into big box retailers, you’ve probably started off small by selling online or through independent grocery stores. How have you done so far? If the market isn’t responding as well as you hoped, be honest with yourself. Listen to the feedback you have received from retailers and customers and make any necessary tweaks to your product before going after big box retailers. If you don’t do this and start selling with big box retailers anyways, you may not meet their sales expectations, which will sour your relationship with the buyers.
You have the financial resources.
Many food businesses think expanding into big box retailers means more cash in their pockets—and most of the time, it does—but not right away. To launch with these stores, you will need to ramp up production to fulfill orders. Depending on the size of your staff, you may need to hire more employees to handle customer service and inventory management. All of these costs will be incurred before you make a single sale with a big box retailer, so you have to have the financial resources to invest in your business.
Distributors are interested in your products.
Have you started to test the waters to see if any grocery store distributors are interested in selling your product? If any distributors who work with big box retailers are showing signs of interest, this could mean they think you’re ready for national chains. Distributors won’t sign any product that comes their way—they have to be confident the product is marketable and profitable, so this is a very good sign for your business.
Customers are asking about your product.
Are customers on your social media pages asking where to find your product in stores? This is a sign it’s time to expand your distribution to become more accessible. Customers won’t take the time to find you online and ask a question about your product unless they are truly interested in purchasing it. If more and more customers are making the effort to find you and engage in conversation, your demand has grown to a level where you should feel comfortable expanding your distribution. Just be sure to announce what stores you’re in once you’ve made it on the shelves so all of these customers can finally find you!
Once you have determined you’re ready to make the leap to big box retailers, it’s time to consider working with a food distributor or product broker. Both of these marketing intermediaries can handle connecting with and winning over big box buyers so you can focus your energy on the rest of your business.
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.
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