Problem Solver: How can I get my food product onto the store shelves?
Q: Can you give me any advice on how best to approach store managers and buyers with my new food product?
A: Congratulations on starting your new food business! The most important thing for you on your journey to get your product listed with various different shops is to remember that the store owner or buyer is being approached constantly by different producers.
While you might be hugely enthusiastic about your product, to some degree they see these approaches on a daily basis.
Therefore, you have to think through carefully what your pitch is going to be in terms of getting your product listed.
Buyers and store owners typically are not so focused on the product alone, but rather on the wider category the product sits within. They will look at the category and see what impact your product has on it. If there is another similar product, and all that might happen is that your product is going to take sales from the existing one, then your chances of getting listed are very poor. If on the other hand there is nothing else like it in the category and you can argue that it will attract new customers to come into the category, then you are on to a winner.
The reality in the retail sector is that there is no room for "a me too" product.
You have to remember that retailers do not have elastic shelves and the shelving that they do have is already full, so in order to stock your product something else must be delisted.
Many producers forget this fact.
The golden rule is that you visit the shop in advance of talking to the buyer or store owner and you make a good assessment of what they are stocking and ideally be able to identify a gap in their category.
This then becomes the core part of your sales pitch so that you are informed when you meet the buyer. When approaching store owners at shop level, it can sometimes be difficult to get hold of the right person. You're probably best to phone the shop that morning to ensure the person you are targeting is working on that day and then arrive in with your product samples and marketing material, etc. While making appointments will seem like a logical approach, the retail sector can be a very fluid and turbulent environment and while someone might agree to meet you on a Wednesday, you may well arrive to find they have had to change their day off.
The last piece of advice I would give you is to make sure you are ready to support your product on the shelf with lots of tasting and other instore activity as this will help the buyers make their decision if they see you are willing to give lots of ongoing support.
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