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About: Noelle Fox

Recent Posts by Noelle Fox

Testimonial: Ithaca Hummus

Bay Food Brokerage has served as Ithaca Hummus’s Southeast food broker since 2017. During that time, we’re proud to have played a role in getting their product into Publix, Earth Fare, Harris Teeter and Ingels stores in the Southeast.

And, we’re especially grateful to Ithaca Founder Chris Kirby for sharing his perspective on our partnership in this blog post.

About Ithaca Hummus

Chris Kirby established Ithaca, New York-based Ithaca Hummus in 2013. Its original lemon garlic hummus debuted at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market that year. Today, the company is the fastest-growing hummus brand in the country.

“We’re the leading premium hummus brand in America,” Chris sad. “We differentiate our hummus with fresh-as-possible ingredients – like real lemon juice – to create the intense flavor experience that our fans have come to love.”

Ithaca currently offers seven varieties of hummus that are sold in major retailers throughout the U.S.

The Opportunity: Southeast Expansion

In 2017, Ithaca was selling products in The Fresh Market, Wegmans and Whole Foods. However, the company had yet to get into some of the major retailers in the Southeast, such as Publix.

“We weren’t in the market for a Southeast food broker,” Chris said. “We’re a very entrepreneurial company and have a very do-it-yourself ethos. Our plan was to have our account managers build relationships with the category managers at the Southeast retailers. That approach had worked for us in the past, in other parts of the country.”

However, Chris’s thinking changed after he met the Bay Food Brokerage team at the IDDBA (International Dairy Deli Bakery Association) conference in 2017.

“At the IDDBA show, Cammie and her team were in full force, scouting the showroom floor,” Chris said. “They came by our booth, tasted our product, and we really hit it off.”

Ithaca Hummus stood out to the Bay Food team because of its clean label, fresh ingredients, high-pressure processing and effective packaging. While most other hummus products are sold in round packaging, Ithaca’s is square. The smaller footprint means more items can fit on a shelf, which is attractive to retailers. As a Southeast food broker, Bay Food knew Ithaca was special.

“We just felt very confident that consumers and retailers in the Southeast would love this product for so many reasons,” said Cammie Chatterton, Bay Food’s President and CEO.

Even though Chris wasn’t looking for a Southeast food broker, one found him.

“Thanks to having a great relationship with our broker in the Northeast, we knew what a value-added broker looked like,” Chris said. “Bay Food Brokerage is a regional powerhouse broker.”

Six weeks after IDDBA, Chris and the Bay Food team were presenting Ithaca Hummus to Publix’s category manager.

The Results: Ithaca in Publix, Earth Fare, Harris Teeter and Ingles

Within three months of meeting the Bay Food Brokerage team, Ithaca Hummus was shipping its first order to Publix’s 1,200+ stores.

“Timing was in our favor with the category review process. But, still, it’s very rare for a small, emerging brand to come into Publix and get overnight chainwide distribution like that,” Chris said. “Our team certainly played a role. But I don’t think it would’ve happened without the help and credibility that Bay Food Brokerage brought right away.”

Ithaca Hummus launched with four varieties in Publix and now has seven nationwide.

But Bay Food Brokerage is not just a Publix broker. We’re a Southeast food broker that represents our clients with all major retailers in the region. So, shortly after launching Ithaca in Publix, our team also helped secure distribution in Earth Fare. Earth Fare has approximately 20 stores in eight states.
And, in recent months, our team has also helped Ithaca get into Harris Teeter and Ingles, which totals another 450 stores.

Beyond simply serving as a Southeast food broker to get Ithaca’s products into stores, Bay Food also supports Ithaca with in-store support and special projects. Chris said the team’s expertise, relationships with retailers and “boots on the ground” have brought value to Ithaca many times.

“For example, Bay Food introduced us to Publix’s inner-mail system,” Chris said. “We had signs we wanted up in all of the stores. Inner-mail allowed us to send them all to Publix headquarters. And then they sent them to all their stores. If we hadn’t known about that, we would have sent a sign to every store, which would have wasted time and money.”

To continue that example, the Bay Food retail representatives also made sure that the signs made it to every store and that the retailers had displayed them correctly.

“We relied heavily on the Bay Food team to verify signs were up and to take pictures where they weren’t,” Chris said. “That’s the extra level of service they provide and that we want associated with our brand.”

The Experience: Valuing Relationships

Chris recognized that relationships are a key component of keeping the entire process humming.

“It starts with people, and with leadership,” Chris said. “Cammie and her team understand what the retailer is looking for and then prospects according to the retailers’ needs. They also have the depth and quality of relationships with retailers that foster a productive experience for everyone.”

Chris also expressed admiration for Bay Food’s leader, Cammie Chatterton.

“It’s so inspiring to think about what Cammie has done in a business she started 30 years ago in a male-dominated industry,” he said. “She’s really a source of inspiration for our team and a powerful force for change that we admire and look up to.”

Fifty percent of Ithaca’s staff are female.

“We love our relationship with Bay Food,” Chris offered, in closing. “I think there’s great top-to-top alignment across our two businesses that allows us to trust each other. And that creates an incredible amount of value.”

Looking for a Southeast food broker? Contact us today to learn how we can help your brand grow.

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Top 6 Considerations for Retail-Ready Food Packaging

As a retail food broker that has been in the industry for nearly 30 years, we’ve seen the following scenario many times.

A food manufacturer’s sales team goes in to pitch a new product to a major retailer. The product is great, in almost all aspects. But there’s one small thing – like the package is one-half inch too long – that causes the retailer to turn it down.

Retailers that are considering whether to carry new items in their stores place significant value on effective food packaging. This is because product packaging impacts everything from the retailer’s merchandising to sales to labor.

So, when manufacturers prepare to pitch a new product to a retailer, it’s critical they understand what the retailer is looking for in the packaging. As a retail food broker, this is something we help our food manufacturer clients work through as we prepare for category reviews and pitch sessions.

Here are the top six questions about food packaging that retailers ask themselves when considering whether to carry a new product.

1. Where in the store would the product be sold?

Some retailers have a very flexible approach to how and where products are displayed in their stores. Others are more rigid in their display requirements. So, while one retailer may allow for a special display of hanging products near the deli, another may want to sell the same product on a shelf in the center store.

This means that before manufacturers design product packaging, it’s important to understand where the retailers would display the product in their stores. If you’re working with a retail food broker, bring them in to the package design process early on. Their experts should be able to share insights on display preferences of the retailers you want to target.

2. Would the product fit available shelf size?

Linear footage and depth of shelf-space is a store’s real estate, and retailers must make the most of every inch. This means retailers need to know if the product you’re pitching will fit on their shelves. Brownie points go to effective food packaging that maximizes shelf-space. For example, a square package may allow for more on-shelf items than its competitors’ round packaging.

A retail food broker can help food manufacturers understand retailers’ shelf sizes and ideal dimensions for product packaging.

3. Can the product be displayed horizontally and vertically?

Retailers like to have options when it comes to displaying a product. Food products that retailers can stack both horizontally and vertically on shelves are more appealing than those that they can displaye only one way.

Again, bringing a retail food broker into the package design process early on can help manufacturers consider options that allow for multiple retail display possibilities.

4. Are the attributes prominently listed on the package?

Data shows product attributes can play a large part in consumers’ buying decisions. So, retailers want to see attributes listed on the front of products, not the back. And bonus points go to products that also list attributes on a side of the package to allow for vertical and horizontal display options, as described above.

That means it’s important to list attributes on your products’ packaging where consumers can easily see them, especially those that differ from your competitors’.

5. Is the packaging material appealing to consumers?

Consumer preferences show a distinct leaning toward manufacturers and brands that practice sustainability. Because of this, retailers are particularly interested in products that use less material and eco-conscious materials. For example, this would include packaging that consumers can recycle.

In addition, packaging that’s convenient for consumers is also appealing to retailers. For example, if the consumer has to microwave the product, can you package it in a microwavable container? Or, if the customer probably won’t consume the product in one sitting, can they reseal the package?

A retail food broker with the right technology partners can help manufacturers stay up-to-speed on the latest consumer trends, which, in turn, drives retailer preferences.

6. Is the case pack ideal for the store?

Retailers want products to arrive at the store in master cases that allow them to put all items in the box out on shelves at once. A master case (also called “case pack”) with too many units is problematic for the retailer. First of all, there typically isn’t room in the back of a grocery store to stock inventory that won’t fit on the shelves. Secondly, items with a short shelf-life need to all go out on shelves immediately to ensure they sell before expiration. Also, getting products in a master case out all at once reduces the labor involved in the re-stocking process.

Generally speaking, manufacturers should deliver perishable products to stores in master cases of six items. And they should pack frozen and center store products according to the number of items that can fit on the shelf at one time. The right grocery broker partner will be able to help you determine how many items will fit on the shelf at the retailers you’re targeting. And this will help you decide how many items to include in your master case.

Not sure whether your food product packaging will attract a major retailer in the Southeast? Contact us today to see how we can help.

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5 Retail Food Trends to Watch in 2022

To remain a leading grocery broker in the Southeast and best serve our clients, the team at Bay Food Brokerage is committed to staying up-to-date on retail food trends. In this post, two of our Account Executives, Greg Betz and Lindsey Baron, share their insights on:

  • Why it’s important for food manufacturers to understand retail food trends
  • How the right grocery broker partner can help manufacturers capitalize on these trends
  • Five retail food trends to watch in 2022

Why Food Manufacturers Need to Know Retail Trends

When it comes to food products, consumers’ preferences are always changing. Just because a product once flew off the grocery store shelves doesn’t mean it will always be popular. Food manufacturers need to keep their fingers on the pulse of retail food trends in order to stay relevant – and better yet, to stay ahead of the curve.

“Manufacturers should keep up on trends for future innovation,” Lindsey said. “Or, let’s say they’re playing around with an idea for a new concept. Then they’ll definitely want to know the latest trends and the direction consumers are headed with their preferences.”

Greg cited keto-friendly products as an example.

“A ketogenic diet has recently become very popular,” he said. “Whereas a little while ago you didn’t see any mention of ‘keto’ on food packaging, now we’re seeing a lot of brands come out with keto-friendly lines.”

How a Grocery Broker can Help Capitalize on Trends

The right grocery broker partner can help food manufacturers make smart decisions based on the latest retail food trends.

First of all, ideally, the grocery broker will have access to current data on these trends. For instance, at Bay Food, we partner with SPINS, a leading provider of big data and analytics for the natural, organic and specialty products industry. This data offers insight into up-and-coming categories, how clients’ products are performing compared to competitors and more.

“Understanding these trends makes us a better partner when our clients are developing products and formulating sales strategies,” Greg said. “For example, we recently helped a client work through designing packaging so that it highlighted attributes we know are important to consumers. This education and consulting resulted in a product that major retailers were interested in selling, because it showcased the attributes consumers are looking for right now.”

5 Retail Food Trends to Watch in 2022

Based on data provided by our technology/data partner SPINS as we start off 2022, here are five retail grocery shopping trends that manufacturers should be aware of. Consumers are indicating an increased demand for food products that are:

  1. Plant-based

Consumer demand for plant-based products continues to expand. And, it’s going beyond the plant-based burgers to also include alternative cheeses, ready-to-eat protein snacks and other categories.

“In the last five years, I’ve seen a significant expansion of plant-based items within categories like cream cheese and ice cream novelties,” said Lindsey. She’s a grocery broker who deals significantly in frozen and dairy products. “I expect this plant-based trend to continue long-term, as consumers recognize that these products taste good and are good for them.”

As another example, a recent report from SPINS shows that frozen breakfast items labeled “vegan” increased in sales 99% from October 2020 to October 2021.*

  1. Immunity-focused

The COVID-19 pandemic helped catapult immune-boosting products to the forefront of consumers’ minds. With increased focus on health and overall wellbeing, consumers are now looking for products with immune- and health-boosting ingredients.

“We’re seeing a lot of products right now touting immune-boosting properties, probiotics and collagen, especially in beverages,” Lindsey said.

As another example, recent SPINS data shows sales of refrigerated dressings with probiotic supplements increased 22% from October 2020 to October 2021.*

Also, Greg explained that research studies that show the health benefits of eating – or limiting or avoiding – certain foods will continue to influence buying behavior.

“Research continues to come out supporting health benefits related to things like immunity support and weight loss,” Greg said. “This is going to keep playing a role in what consumers look for in their food products.”

  1. Mission-based

Data shows that many supermarket shoppers are leaning toward brands that have a positive mission. For example, this could include brands that:

  • Are run by underrepresented communities
  • Focus on the wellbeing of their customers and workers
  • Strongly support nonprofits and even their own foundations

“If a customer is looking at two brands on the shelf, they may be more apt to pick the one doing something good for the community,” Lindsey said.

As a grocery broker partner to manufacturers, the team at Bay Food helps clients showcase their mission, if they have one.

“I think it’s a great idea for food brands to be mission-based,” Greg said. “It attracts customers and does great things for organizations and communities that need support.”

  1. Diet & Lifestyle Friendly

Consumers now expect a wide range of food products that align with their particular diet and lifestyle choices. According to grocery brokers Greg and Lindsey, popular attributes include:

  • Non-GMO
  • Organic
  • Keto-friendly
  • Plant-based
  • No artificial preservatives
  • Gluten-free
  • Lower-sodium
  • No trans fat
  • Health-additives (like immune boosting ingredients or collagen in waters)
  • Eco-friendly packaging, such as packaging made from recycled materials or is recyclable
  1. Showcasing Sustainability of Meat and Dairy

Many consumers are paying more attention to how manufacturers are producing the meat and dairy they buy. This ranges from how the animals are raised to the impact production has on the environment.

“Manufacturers that can showcase efforts to promote sustainability will gain a competitive advantage with discerning shoppers,” Greg said.

Attributes of meat and dairy that attract consumers include:

  • Grass-fed
  • Pasture-raised
  • Cage-free
  • Sustainable farming
  • Efforts to limit the carbon footprint

Are you looking for a grocery broker partner to help your product capitalize on the latest retail food trends? Contact us today to learn how we can serve you.

* SPINS Natural Enhanced Channel and SPINS Conventional Multi Outlet (powered by IRI) | 52 Weeks Ending 10-31-2021

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Team Member Spotlight: Christina Akers, Account Executive

In this Team Member Spotlight, we feature Christina Akers, a top-notch Southeast broker who represents our clients in major retailers in the Carolinas and Georgia.

Christina joined the Bay Food Brokerage family in 2011 as a retail representative. Today, as an Account Executive, she works with our food manufacturing clients selling in all grocery store departments.

Based in the Lake Wylie, S.C., office, she works with the following retail partners:

Get to know this all-star Southeast broker through her own stories and insights, which she shares below.

Christina Akers Southeast Broker Headshot

Can you tell us a little bit about your career and educational/professional background?

I graduated from Glenville State College with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, and Marshall University with a Master of Science in Psychological Counseling and Human Behavior Patterns. I’ve been with Bay Food Brokerage over 11 years. I started as a field rep and have worked my way up through the ranks to Account Executive.

As a Southeast broker, what do you like most about working in the retail food industry?

My favorite part of the grocery industry is the fast pace and the fact that it is always changing. I am always anxious to see what is coming up next.

What do you like most about your current role as a Southeast broker and/or working at Bay Food Brokerage? 

I enjoy working with a strong team. As a leading Southeast broker, Bay Food has many years of experience to offer in the grocery industry. I like managing my own accounts but still contributing to the company’s overall success.

What’s the biggest work-related challenge you’ve ever faced and how did you overcome it? 

The biggest work-related challenge I have ever faced is building accounts from ground

zero. Our industry is about relationships, and building them from nothing takes time and a lot of hours of hard work. Once my foot is in the door, I work hard to gain respect from customers to continue building the relationship.

What advice would you give someone interested in pursuing your line of work? 

My advice for anyone entering the industry is to shadow people who currently have positions of interest and do your homework. This industry forces you to wear many hats, and you must be flexible.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received, and why?

“Christina, you are not doing brain surgery. Stop being so hard on yourself. No one is going to die if you make a mistake!”

Care to share a highpoint in your career and what it meant to you?

The best feeling in the world is when you see your clients’ products on the grocery store shelf for the first time after all your hard work.

What are some of your personal hobbies outside of work?

Enjoying the outdoors and traveling.

Care to tell us about your family?

I come from a big family, and we are very close. Currently, I live with my two boxers, Gus and Gertie. Yes, I said live with because anyone who has boxers knows that it’s their house and we just live in it!

What might someone be surprised to learn about you?

I love to read.

What was the first concert you attended?

Aerosmith.

What are some small things that make your day better?

Smiles.

What’s your favorite sports team and/or sport?

College football.

What could you give a 40-minute presentation on with absolutely no preparation?

The grocery industry, camping, living with two boxers, and make-up application.

Lightning Round – Christina’s Favorites

  • Food or cuisine: Italian
  • Movie: Dirty Dancing
  • Song: Anything by Elton John
  • Place: Home

At Bay Food Brokerage, our team and our clients are like family! Contact us today if you’re interested in how Christina or another member of our Southeast broker team can serve you.

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5 Ways to Make Your Product Stand Out on Supermarket Shelves

How understanding food trends and consumer preferences can increase retail sales

Shoppers have a plethora of options to choose from when they visit supermarkets these days. Every product category has multiple brands competing for consumers’ attention and dollars. So how does a food manufacturer ensure their products stand out on grocery store shelves? They have to understand the latest food trends and consumer preferences, then develop and design products that differentiate themselves from competitors.

Here are five things a manufacturer can do to help their food product stand out on supermarket shelves.

1. Research retailers and competitors

Before you design product packaging, it’s critical to research your target retailers and competitors. What you learn during this phase will inform plans for all other tips shared in this post.

First, you’ll need to understand where your product would be displayed in each retailers’ stores. Some retailers have a very flexible approach to how products are displayed. Others are rigid in their display requirements. So, while one retailer may allow for a special display of hanging products near the deli, another may want to sell the same product on a shelf in the center store.

Once you understand in which area of the store the retailer(s) would sell your product and how it would be displayed, assess the competition there. Then, consider how you could make your product stand out among them. For example, if competing products largely use the same color on their packaging, use a different color for yours, to capture consumers’ attention.

Any of the below tips can help you stand out from competitors, when used appropriately. Just be smart about how you choose to differentiate your product from its competitors. For example, be somewhat consistent in size. If most competitors offer a 12-ounce product, don’t make yours 16 ounces that’s more expensive, if there’s no value proposition to justify it.

2. Show the product – or don’t

According to the latest food trends and consumer preferences, “eye-appeal is buy-appeal.” This means consumers like to see many food products through their packaging. This is particularly true for perishable products, and especially those sold in the deli, like prepared meals.

If your product looks fresh and appetizing in the state it’s sold, consider using:

  • Clear clamshells
  • Sous vide bags
  • Boxes with windows

On the other hand, food that does not look appealing in the state it’s sold should not use clear packaging. This would include products like refrigerated mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese, which don’t look very appealing when they’re cold.

3. Embrace consumer convenience and sustainability preferences

The latest food trends and consumer preferences show a distinct leaning toward manufacturers and brands that practice sustainability. So, another thing to keep in mind regarding product packaging material is whether it can be recycled. More and more, consumers – and, therefore, retailers – are looking for products that use sustainable or innovative packaging.

Also, consider whether the packaging is convenient for consumers. For example, if the product has to be microwaved, can it be packaged in a microwavable container? Or, if the product isn’t intended to be consumed in one sitting, can the package be resealed? Consider how your product could use disruptive or creative packaging to stand out from competing products on the shelf.

4. Lean in to the latest graphic design-related food trends

Using a package color that’s different from competing products is just one graphic design tactic food manufacturers can use to help their products stand out on supermarket shelves. According to the latest consumer preferences and food trends, popular product design tactics include using:

    • A matte finish (instead of a shiny finish)
    • A QR code that links to a webpage, such as the product’s website, an online recipe or a video
    • Food photography shot at optimal angles

5. Highlight attributes

Data on food trends and consumer preferences show that product attributes can play a large part in consumers’ buying decisions. That means it’s important to list attributes on your products’ packaging where they can be easily seen, especially those that differ from your competitors’.

Some of the most popular attributes to list on product packaging right now include:

  • Organic
  • No artificial preservatives
  • Gluten-free
  • Keto
  • Lower-sodium
  • No trans fat
  • Easy-open
  • Resealable
  • Recyclable
  • Fair-trade

Need helping figure out how to make your product stand out on supermarket shelves? Contact us today to learn how we can help.

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Cammie Chatterton Joins Get Live 45 Foundation Executive Board

Our Owner, President and CEO Cammie Chatterton has joined the executive board of the nonprofit Get Live 45 Foundation.

About the Get Live 45 Foundation

Founded in 2021 by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Devin White, the purpose of the Get Live 45 Foundation is to give the magic of hope and comfort during life’s meaningful moments to Tampa-area foster children.

“Devin focuses on the youth in our community and how we can make their lives better, and my focus on giving back has always been connected with children,” Cammie said. “Our children are our future, and we all must do more to show them that they are loved and cared for in this world. Devin is doing exactly that with his foundation, and I am thrilled and honored to be a part of his vision.”

Devin White launched the Get Live 45 Foundation with a gala on Dec. 13. The event raised over $197,000 through sponsorships, ticket sales, live and silent auction items, and donations. Event proceeds supported the foundation’s 2021 Christmas program for children in foster care. They will also support the foundation’s future back-to-school and graduation outreach programs.

Community Involvement

Cammie is very active in the local nonprofit and business community. In addition to the Get Live 45 Foundation board, she also currently serves as as a member of:

  • The board of directors for the capital campaign of Feeding Tampa Bay
  • The board of directors for the Tampa Bay Chamber
  • CEO Council of Tampa Bay
  • The Jesuit High School Parent Alumni organization

“Getting involved in our local community is extremely important to me, personally, and to our whole team at Bay Food Brokerage,” Cammie said. “We love giving back and paying it forward.”

Community service is an important part of the Bay Food Brokerage culture. Learn about other nonprofit organizations we support here.

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Testimonial: Lemon Perfect Water Brand

Bay Food Brokerage has been providing center store broker services to Lemon Perfect since April 2020. In less than two years, we’re proud to have played a role in the brand’s speedy launch and impressive growth in the Southeast. And, we’re especially grateful to Lemon Perfect’s Senior Director of Sales in the East, Dustin Canner, for sharing his perspective on our partnership in this blog post.

About Lemon Perfect

Lemon Perfect is a naturally refreshing, zero-sugar cold-pressed lemon water with hydrating electrolytes and essential antioxidants.

“We’re at the intersection of flavor and good-for-you,” Dustin said.

The brand, originally founded in California, is currently based in Atlanta.

The Opportunity: Southeast Retail Growth

By late 2019, start-up Lemon Perfect had recently transitioned from producing cold beverages to its existing shelf-stable enhanced water. And company leaders were looking to get the product into retail stores in the Southeast.

“Publix is the biggest retail player in the Southeast, and we needed someone who had a relationship with the Publix grocery department,” Dustin said.

The Solution: A Passionate Center Store Broker Partner

Lemon Perfect’s leadership recognized that working with the right partner that offered center store broker services was key to achieving their Southeast sales goals. A trusted industry partner recommended that Dustin meet with VP of Sales Gary Royal at Bay Food Brokerage.

“From the first minute I spoke to Gary, I could see his passion for our product,” Dustin said. “He took a ton of time to learn about the brand and raved about the product. It felt like having him in our corner would be like having another Lemon Perfect employee on board. He was that engaged.”

Dustin had first started talking to Bay Food Brokerage about their center store broker services in January 2020. By April 1, Lemon Perfect had engaged Bay Food as its Southeast broker representing the brand in Publix.

The Results: Product in 1,200+ Publix Stores in Six Weeks

Lemon Perfect sent Bay Food Brokerage the product sales sheets, and the center store broker team got to work. Within six weeks of Lemon Perfect’s introductory call with Bay Food, Publix had agreed to sell four SKUs of Lemon Perfect in all its 1,200-plus stores throughout the Southeast starting that May.

“It happened very quick, which is especially notable because it was at a time when the world was on edge with the pandemic,” Dustin said. “Gary was able to walk into Publix and share why he thought our product was a good fit for the Southeast consumer. The category team at Publix bought right in. To go into over 1,200 Publix stores right off the bat was kind of unheard of.”

As the brand’s Publix broker, the Bay Food team also worked closely with Lemon Perfect on its marketing plan to support retail sales.

“Gary specifically helped me put together a great trade marketing plan to support Publix and make sure the Publix consumer is trying our product and coming back and buying it in a big way,” Dustin said.

At the close of 2021, Lemon Perfect has experienced a 210% growth in sales over 2020.

The Experience: A Hands-On Partner

Dustin highlighted a few traits about Bay Food Brokerage that he thinks sets the company apart as a center store broker

“I think they do a great job of working with emerging brands,” Dustin said. “We’re a start-up brand, and Bay Food has held our hand through all phases of growth.”

This hands-on approach includes:

  • Monitoring Lemon Perfect’s week-over-week sales
  • Coordinating with its distributor
  • Keeping up with the operations team and inventory

“Working with Bay Food Brokerage has been fantastic,” Dustin said. “They have been great about handling everything we’ve thrown at them. Even through challenges, they’ve always had our back. If I had to give them a letter grade, it’s an A+.”

Looking for a center store broker partner in the Southeast? Contact us today to learn how we can help

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How Grocery Store Delis Can Compete with Customers’ Return to Restaurants

The COVID-19 pandemic initially diverted consumers away from restaurants and toward grocery stores. As a result, fresh prepared meals offered in grocers’ delis comprised one category that saw significant sales growth. In fact, industry reports show sales of those products increased by nearly 17% percent from September 2020 to September 2021.

But now, restaurants in most states have fully re-opened and consumers are more confident about eating out. The question for delis is: how can they keep customers interested in buying those fresh prepared meals?

Bay Food’s VP of Operations Chris Chatterton and Director of Deli & Emerging Business Erin McCulloch-Crume have a few answers to this question. Here is their advice for how grocery delis can react to consumers’ evolving demands and preferences to compete with customers’ return to restaurants.

Transparent Packaging

“People eat with their eyes,” Chris said. “Presentation is an important part of what makes a deli best-in-class.”

This means customers gravitate toward clear packaging for fresh prepared meals more than to prepackaged items with no visibility to the products inside.

In addition, meals that look like in-store staff prepared them tend to attract customers.

“We see this a lot with delis that have the labor to dedicate to these programs,” Erin said. “They sell prepared meals that look like employees made them in-store but are actually coming in from the manufacturer in a kit form or even fully prepared. To the customer, this implies a level of freshness that they expect when shopping the deli.”

Diverse Offerings

For delis offering fresh prepared meals in only the standard fare – fried chicken, rotisserie chicken, pizza, pastas – consider offering international meals, as well. Meal options that are diverse in flavors and profiles gives deli customers a variety of meals to choose from multiple nights of the week.

“Most people get bored of eating a traditional American meal every night,” Chris said. “Offering Indian, Asian, Latin and other ethnic cuisines will keep customers coming back because they’ll have variety.”

Erin also cautions retail delis not to fear taking a risk on international cuisine.

“The international cuisines will be a higher ring and potentially not as high of velocity as your traditional fare,” she said. “But it can increase overall deli sales because you’re offering that variety that gets the customer in more frequently.”

Erin also highlighted the importance of offering seasonal and limited-time-offer meals to keep the set fresh and seasonally relevant.

Meal Size Varieties and Bundles

Another way delis can compete with customers’ return to restaurants is by offering a variety of meal sizes.

“Delis should offer fresh prepared meals in both family and individual sizes to give customers options,” Erin said.

In addition, Chris emphasized the popularity of bundled products sold as “meal deals.”

“Restaurants offer meal deals, like buying an entrée with an appetizer, dessert and drink for a set price,” Chris said. “Deli customers also respond well to creative bundling of fresh prepared meals and other products. Think, a take-home lasagna with a Caesar salad and a bottle of wine marketed as a date-night meal.”

Delivery Options

Chris and Erin also pointed out that while customers dining out in restaurants poses competition to grocery delis, so do food-delivery services, like UberEats and DoorDash.

“Food-delivery services offer consumers restaurant food at the greatest level of convenience,” Chris said.

So how do grocery delis compete with food-delivery services’ convenience factor?

“Retailers should heavily promote their fresh prepared meals and meal bundles on their websites and apps, and make them available for delivery and pick-up,” Erin said.

We’re dedicated to staying on top of the latest retail food industry trends. Contact us today if you’re interested in how we can help your deli brand or product succeed in retail stores.

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6 Benefits Tech-Savvy Brokers Bring Food Manufacturer Clients

At Bay Food Brokerage, we believe in re-investing in our company to offer best-in-class people, tools and processes to our food manufacturer clients. Therefore, we dedicate significant resources to ensuring we are a technology-savvy grocery broker.

Simply put, manufacturers that work with a tech-savvy grocery broker can realize a number of benefits. These benefits impact both the sales bottom-line and overall satisfaction with your broker partner.

To elaborate, here are six benefits a tech-savvy grocery broker can bring food manufacturer clients:

1. More frequent store visits by the retail team

A tech-savvy grocery broker can make more frequent visits to retailers on behalf of their clients. For example, our retail representatives use a software product called RW3. Among its many features is the ability for reps to view and plan driving routes according to store locations. This enables them to spend less time on the road and more time in stores, checking inventory and talking to store managers.

2. Assurance that products are on shelves

Tech-savvy grocery brokers can also more easily assure clients that their products are properly placed in stores. For example, because RW3 helps increase our retail reps’ store visits, we are more likely to quickly find voids. Reps can then discuss any issues with the store manager and report back to clients.

In addition, our retail reps use RW3 on iPads in stores. This allows them to collect data in real-time, as well as take photos of products on shelves. Then we include this information in client reports.

3. Confidence that in-store promotions are underway

There’s nothing worse than seeing a manufacturer invest the time and money into producing in-store promotions only to find out after the fact that the signage was never placed in the store.

Tech-savvy grocery brokers can help assure clients that in-store marketing programs are underway. For example, our retail team uses technology to identify planned in-store promotions. Then when they visit stores, they can confirm signage is placed and take photos for client reports.

4. Improved communication and better customer service

Many small and mid-sized grocery brokers still use Excel spreadsheets, snail mail and other old-school tools for client communications. This antiquated way of doing things means clients are often getting outdated information.

Tech-savvy grocery brokers are able to pull more timely reports and get clients answers faster. Our retail reps have access to internet, email and reports at all times through their tablets. When our clients have a question, our team is able to provide accurate information quickly.

5. Expert industry advice on category and product trends

A tech-savvy grocery broker understands the importance of investing in big data and analytics. The industry insight that brokers take away from this information helps them be a better partner to their food manufacturer clients.

For example, we partner with SPINS, a leading provider of big data and analytics for the natural, organic and specialty products industry. This data offers insight into how clients’ products are performing compared to competitors, up-and-coming categories and more. This information is not only educational for our team. It also makes us a better partner when our clients are developing products and formulating sales strategies.

6. Decreased administrative work

Lastly, a tech-savvy grocery broker can help decrease its clients’ administrative workload. For example, we have invested in Managed Computer Systems (MCS). By increasing efficiencies among our team, we are able to shoulder some of the administrative burden that otherwise would fall to the client, such as filling out forms.

Make technology work for you. Contact us today if you’re in the market for a tech-savvy grocery broker serving the Southeast.

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Testimonial: How Food Brand Tillamook Grew Their Presence and Sales in the Southeast

Bay Food Brokerage has provided retail food brokerage services to Tillamook County Creamery Association (Tillamook) since late 2017. Over the past few years, we’re proud to have made great strides in helping West Coast-based Tillamook expand into the Southeast. And, we’re especially grateful to Tillamook’s Director of Sales focused on the Eastern U.S., Stephanie Carson, for sharing her perspective on our partnership in this blog post.

About Tillamook

Tillamook is a farmer-owned dairy co-operative based in Tillamook, Oregon. Established over 110 years ago, the brand is committed to producing delicious, high-quality dairy products and operates in six categories:

  • Cheese
  • Ice cream
  • Butter
  • Sour cream
  • Yogurt
  • Cream cheese spread

“We believe that everyone should have access to real food with simple ingredients,” Stephanie said.

The Opportunity: East Coast Expansion

In 2017, Tillamook leadership decided to embark on a national expansion.

“Up until this time, we were previously known only in the Western United States in any meaningful way,” Stephanie said. “We were looking for how we were going to sell in the East and decided to utilize brokers to tackle that part of country.”

The Solution: A Regional Food Brokerage Services Partner

“From our first call with Cammie and Chris, it was clear they had the expertise, the access, the passion and the relationships with the customers that we were targeting,” Stephanie said. “Hiring Bay Food Brokerage was just a no-brainer.”

As a result, Tillamook engaged Bay Food Brokerage to provide food brokerage services for their cheese, ice cream and cream cheese spread categories. Sales efforts would focus on the Southeastern U.S.

The Results: Products in Major Retailers

“Our first major achievement with Bay Food was them launching two cheese snacking items with Publix in 2018,” Stephanie said. “Fast-forward to today, and we now have 40 SKUs in Publix. And, we’ve penetrated other large Southeastern retailers through their representation, as well.”

Thanks in part to our food brokerage services, Tillamook now sells products in Publix, Winn-Dixie and Earth Fare throughout the Southeast.

The Experience: A True Partner

According to Stephanie, there are key traits that set Bay Food Brokerage apart from other companies offering retail food brokerage services. For example, our team immerses themselves in the business of our manufacturers.

“I believe they truly embody the Tillamook story and understand what we’re trying to achieve,” Stephanie said. “As a result, they are a natural extension of Tillamook. I think that’s very rare.”

In addition, Stephanie said our follow-through is impeccable and that our staff works very well with Tillamook’s team.

“They’re the prime example of what a regional broker can do and offer,” Stephanie said. “It’s been an incredibly wonderful journey.”

So, are you ready to find a food brokerage services partner in the Southeast? Contact us today to learn how we can help.

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