After several years of selling Green Mountain Mustard at various farmer's markets I decide to launch this little venture in grocery retail stores. The result is now we can be found in over 70 stores across the Northeast and other states. So I wanted to give other food entrepreneurs advice on Getting on the Shelf and most importantly, staying on the shelf!
There are no secrets to this success and like most of you, I learned the hard way, so here are my 5 keys to success and feel free to let me know how these work out for you in getting on the shelf so you can get on the consumers plate!
You've got to get on the shelf and stay there
It takes a lot of work - mainly maintenance of relationships. Sure, it's easy to get into more retailers, but what about keeping your shelf-space? That's the most important key to success.
If your product isn't moving, it won't be reordered. It's as simple as that. How do you make sure you're product is top of the list for a purchase order? Take a look at these five tips to make retail a success marketing channel for your food products.
Don't expect food brokers and distributors to sell for you
When I landed my first distributor. I thought I was golden. I thought I'd be in hundreds of stores in just a few months. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. Distributors and brokers represent thousands of products. They can't possibly single your product out. That means you've got to be the one pounding the pavement - going into stores to drop samples off and talk to store managers. Use your distributor as a way to distribute your product. Makes sense, right?
Follow up with grocery and supermarket buyers
Simply dropping off samples and saying a prayer isn't going to get your products on the shelf at the busiest grocery store in town. You have to follow up… let's say once per quarter. Yes, even if it seems like it's annoying. The buyer forgets about you the second your samples leave your hands. After a couple days, follow up with them by email or phone. Follow up is also necessary once you get on the shelf. Call your buyer to see how things are going. Spend your time developing ideas to present effective in store trade promotions to the buyer during your follow up calls and meetings.
Do monthly in store demos
Demos are awesome. They get you in-front of new customers, and you meet loyal fans (who then give you ways to use your product). Plus, you gain brownie points from your buyer for spending an afternoon dishing out samples. This shows your commitment to the retailer and your desire to push more product. Many stores only allow one demo slot per month. Take advantage of that and schedule your next demo after you finished your last one.
Clean up and keep an eye on your shelf space
No one likes dusty jars - even if they just made it onto the shelf. Dusty jars tells consumers your product is old, close to expiration, and it's not popular. Shine your jar tops with a microfiber cloth, straighten your facings, and pull product forward. This attention to detail helps you sell more product. Plus, going into retailers lets you know if you need to deliver more product. That means, you'll have clean shelves and fully-stocked product. A perfect mix for increased sales of your food products.
Start small & grow
A lot of food companies want to grow at lightning speed from the beginning. I urge you to take it slower. Why? Because you'll be much more organized. You'll have processes figured out and you'll know what works in retail. Going from 5 stores to 500 takes time, money, systems, maintenance, and a lot of sweat. Start small, figure everything out, and then make your move to shelf stardom.
Retail isn't meant to be a frustrating sales channel. It just takes a lot of time to build up your store count and get product moving. With these tips, you'll get a great retail program in place. Best of luck dominating the store shelves!
Author Bio: Michael Adams is the Co-Founder of Gredio, web-based food manufacturing software for specialty food companies built to help you effortlessly run your business (and forget about Excel spreadsheets). He also runs Green Mountain Mustard, found in over 100 retailers across New England.