Best Practices for Getting Food Products into Retail Outlets

Brian German Agri-Business

food products
Alli Ball hosting a panel on selling food products during the 2019 California Food Expo

The process to get food products onto store shelves can be lengthy and difficult, particularly for those who are just starting out in the industry.  Founder of Retail Ready, an online course for producers of packaged products to navigate the food industry, Alli Ball offered some suggestions for success during the recent California Food Expo.

“The first step is preparing to meet with a buyer and understanding that buyers bring in your product so that they can get higher sales in your category,” Ball noted.  “The very first thing to understand is why will the buyer bring in your product and how can you use data to prove that your product is going to bring in sales and help them meet their goal.”

Part of that preparation includes making an appointment with a buyer and not simply dropping by hoping to make a product pitch.  Crafting a message that goes beyond taste and conveys the value a product can bring to a retail store is also important.  “I had so many buyer pitches where people would come in and say ‘my granola is so delicious! my lettuce mix is the best!’ and at the end of the day, everybody thinks their product’s the best.  You’ve got to have some other reason why you stand out to that buyer,” said Ball.

Delivering a brief summary of why your food products would ultimately benefit a grocery store can be more effective than a lengthy explanation of company history, or production practices.  Ball suggests the “the four-sentence pitch, ideally.  Sixty seconds or less is really key to respecting that buyers time.”  Buyers constantly receive different food products from other producers and have other responsibilities, so being pointed and direct during a pitch demonstrates an understanding and respect for their position.

“The more that you can craft a pitch that addresses how your product is going to help them meet their goals and do it in a professional, clear, succinct way,” Ball noted.  “The more likely the buyer is to pay attention and to trust that you’re going to enter into this relationship from the same place:  that same goal of getting higher sales.”

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West