March 15, 2017
The landscape for food producers is so interesting now because it’s changing at such a rapid pace. This is due in large part to how consumers are purchasing food products and those food brands who want to keep up and keep in front of consumers need to be prepared to be in multiple places all at once.
Gone are the days where being on the supermarket shelf alone was enough to yield sales. Supermarket sales are sluggish as consumers start to do more and more of their grocery shopping online and even many of those who continue to utilize supermarkets are starting to outsource that task to grocery delivery companies.
Before you moan that all your hard work to get into stores is for naught, trust me when I tell you that this is great news for small brands.
First of all, I’m not saying that selling to retail partners isn’t a good idea. There are still a number of reasons why getting and keeping your brand on retail store shelves – be it supermarkets, specialty food stores, or some combination of those and others – is a great way to get your product in front of consumers and provides them with an easy way to purchase your product again and again.
However, the fact that consumers are more open to buying food online and through alternative channels gives smaller brands, who may struggle initially to get onto store shelves, a gateway into consumers. Five years ago consumers were hesitant to purchase food items online aside from mail order companies like Williams-Sonoma and Harry & David. Now though, not only are they willing to purchase food, companies like Amazon are also seeing how far that consumer trust will take them by recently offering ‘mystery sweet’ boxes where consumers pay $18 to have a mystery box of chocolates and candy sent to them. Are customers willing to pay not knowing what they’ll find inside – we’ll see! But it says a lot about how far customer confidence has come with regards to online purchases of food.
Which is to say that for food brands to be successful today you should be thinking well outside the retailer-only box. Taking into consideration your product, it’s shelf life and other sensitivities (i.e., does it need to be refrigerated, etc.), and your audience and what you know about them, what are all the ways you can get your product in front of them. Do they shop at supermarkets or specialty stores? If so, what are you doing to get into those stores? Do they shop online? If so, what are you doing to get your product in front of them when they’re online? Do they attend farmers markets? If so, are you at those markets? Do they value convenience? If so, what can you do to make your products more convenient for them to purchase?
Are your products and your sales channels in line with what you know about your consumers?