How can I get a slice of the supermarket soda bread market?
Q: I've started making a good brown soda bread for my café and I was thinking of approaching the big supermarkets. Can you give any advice?
A: One of the most important aspects when you are supplying any product to the multiple supermarkets is to ensure that a gap actually exists for your product.
I am sure your brown soda bread is very good, but you must be able to identify a gap in the market if you are going to succeed.
Visit the retailers you're interested in and survey similar competitor products which are on sale and gather information on the size of the product and price. For the purposes of comparison you might find it interesting to convert all the prices to a per kilo comparison, as sometimes sizes can be deceptive.
You should then be able to identify where the gap exists for your product and what will tempt the retailer to buy it. There is no room for a 'me too' product which is similar to everything else, and more importantly don't forget that to take your product in, the retailer will have to delist another existing product.
I would also recommend you talk with the research department in Bord Bia who will have information on the product range you are looking at and the trends within that. That might help to stimulate more ideas. What you are looking to achieve is unique positioning for your product, so you need to work hard to identify 'Unique Selling Points'.
Part of your research phase might also prompt new ideas in your mind. If you discover the category is crowded and you can't see an ideal fit for your product, then you might find inspiration for a new product, or something that will differentiate yourself .
You might also want to consider a possible easier route to market by looking at specialist shops and the ranges they carry and also other cafés and restaurants. Supplying the supermarkets can be a very fulfilling exercise with a large commercial prize, but you need to be sure you have done your homework.
Q: What are your views on training new staff when they are being inducted into a business?
A: In times of recession and when sales are dropping, many companies make the mistake of cutting training budgets - particularly the area focusing on the induction of new staff. In my opinion, that is one of the biggest errors you can make. At one point during my time in Superquinn when the economy wasn't strong and sales were falling, and we had considered reducing the amount of days on the induction programme for new staff and cutting our overall training budget.
In fact we extended the training budget and allocated more time to induction of new staff. That created an even greater competitive advantage for us over other retailers as they had gone off and done the obvious thing and slashed budgets.
It is vital that new staff understand the culture of the business and all of the practicalities of their job. This must be a structured process and given the appropriate time. The most challenging element of induction will probably revolve around customer service and creating the right ethos to deliver world-class service. This won't be achieved through a 30-minute talk and will need focus and time. It is important that new staff are given time off the shop floor before they meet customers in a safe environment to allow them to ask questions and role play different scenarios. You certainly shouldn't use customers as guinea pigs for someone training.
Send your small business questions to firstname.lastname@example.org