There’s no denying, that turning your delicious gluten free cookies or spicy sought after curry paste, into a commercial product is a hard slog. The effort you’ve put in to get it shelf worthy has been exhausting one minute and exhilarating the next. You’ve tried and tested it at the local produce markets and you now have repeat customers. You’ve got your food labelling down pat and you have a ground understanding of food marketing and you’re brand ready. But it’s time to take it up a notch.
Get it out there. Find a food distributor.
It’s paramount to highlight at this stage, that you are clear this is the right path for you. Know the WHY you want a distributor before taking on this step. If it’s just about being seen, there’s other ways around that. But if it’s about getting your product in front of the right people in the right channels aligned with your product’s positioning…well that’s a good reason to head down this path.
Once you’ve set up that all important first meeting, you’ll need to arm yourself with some sound knowledge that will help the distributor make a fair assessment as to whether your product is a good fit for them and their channels and whether you want what they have to offer. It goes both ways so here are the top 5 areas you need to get savvy about before your meeting.
1. Do your research about the food distributor – There’s nothing worse than going into a meeting and not having a clue about the distributor and how they operate.
- Find out min orders quantity – this might be a question you ask during the phone call, but if it’s not answered then, it’s a definitive question right at the beginning. This information will also inform you of how much you need to make before your product becomes a viable option.
- Who else do they represent? – most distributors showcase their list of clients on-line. The array of clients and type of brands they represent gives you an idea of whether your product would be a good fit for them. Will your product fit in well with the kind of other brands they cover? But distinct enough to stand on its own? Will it appeal to the retailers they sell to?
- Have at least 3 price ranges – there’s a reason for this strategy. If you only have one price point for your product or products, you’re narrowing the options for them to take on your product. You might also risk looking a bit inflexible as a client. If you have three options, the likelihood of having one range picked up is high as they will know almost instantly which price point will appeal mostly to their end buyer.
2. Ask about promotional opportunities – You want to know your product will be marketed properly and with care. But the prelude to this is knowing your product, its consumers, competitors and your market inside out. Showing them how YOU promote it through social media, tasting, collaboration and sampling to name a few, will show them your commitment as well as offering the distributor opportunities that will benefit their sales force. You can then go ahead and ask how they might plan to feature or market your new product? Making it sound like a win – win is well….a win. And if you have some ideas yourself, now’s the time to share them.
3. Know your margins and theirs – It stands to reason that knowing your margins before you go in means you’re in control of whether it’s worth your while to go ahead and let them distribute your brand. It’s a numbers game and you have to know what you’re playing with. Equally important, ask about their margins. You don’t want a situation where their margins are so high that it prices your product out of the market and the likelihood of it getting picked up is low by the end buyer and user. You want a product where everyone makes money and the customer loves it enough to pay the shelf price.
You want a product where everyone makes money and the customer loves it enough to pay the shelf price.
4. Know your product – Sounds pretty obvious I know. But food distributors are looking for some key factors when choosing whether they’ll take your product on the road. They want to know if you’re unique. Affordable (see point 3), and they want to know if you’re different. If you have to be able to sell the story of your product that highlights that consumers want what you have. Doing some research into market trends should help back up this claim. Is it fashionable? Is money being spent around the globe to make this the next big “it” food? In other words, are current trends dictating forces which can only make your product a “must have” on the distributors list? Knowing what your customers want is paramount and doing a presentation that covers all these points is crucial to getting your product noticed. But beware to not oversell your product. Just be clear, honest and passionate about what makes it such a great choice.
Knowing what your customers want is paramount
5. Learn by osmosis – Congratulations the food distributor loves your product! However know that they will not sell the story of your brand for you. Their job is to relay this information to their sales team. Going back to point 4 and adopting a great presentation will make their job easier. They need to quickly absorb your brand and it’s positioning and marketability so they can prepare their team quickly on the road. Educate them. Tell them your story. A sure fire way to get onto the sales pitch is to join the team on the road. Learn via osmosis. Listen to how they sell, and what makes for a purchase by the end user. You will learn a lot about how the sales team deliver your brand story and product. Above all you certainly can add to the sales pitch by being present and contributing in person. But hearing how the experts do it is at the very least a benefit you cannot ignore.
Approaching distributors can be a scary proposition for so many of us. In this blog post, we’ve given you the fundamentals on what to do when you are there in the meeting. Getting a meeting may also be your challenge. If that is the case, join our community either by joining the conversation on our social channels.
Want to read about a successful Females in Food member? Check out our ‘What’s Cooking’ interview with founder of My Other Kitchen, Jane DelRosso.