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Category Archives: Manufacturers

What Manufacturers Need to Know about Getting Holiday Food Products into Stores

The average consumer probably doesn’t know how long it takes for their Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas cookie platter to get from product development to their grocery store. But our director of deli and emerging business, Erin McCulloch-Crume, does: about a year. In fact, many manufacturers don’t even know how far in advance they need to start working on getting holiday food products into retailers.

“Manufacturers who haven’t done seasonal food products before often don’t know how early buyers are actually making decisions,” Erin said. “You need to get things started a year in advance to get these products on shelves for the following holiday season.”

For manufacturers considering adding holiday food products to their offerings, Erin recommends the following timeline:

  1. Q4 of the previous year: Begin planning varieties and assortment, and start marketing initiatives
  2. February and March: Presentation of seasonal food products to retailers
  3. By Mid-April: All presentations have been made
  4. By May (or June at the latest): Buyers have made decisions and given volume commitments
  5. End of October: All holiday food products ship to retailers
  6. First Week of November: Retailers receive products
  7. November and December: Seasonal food products on the shelves in store

Tips for Getting Holiday Food Products into Stores

Erin also offers the following advice for manufacturers interested in getting seasonal food products into stores.

  • Start talking to buyers early and often about food trends. Ask what they would like to sell in stores next holiday season. Also, lean on your retail food brokerage partner for advice. Ask them to call buyers to see what they’re looking for. Then, consider opportunities to offer creative ideas and solutions.
  • When you’re considering pricing of holiday food products, don’t price it for today. Think through what you’d want to sell them for next year. Take into account potential cost increases, inflation and other industry and economic forces that may impact pricing strategies a year from now.
  • For branded products, include holiday food promotions and other marketing initiatives in next year’s marketing budget. This can be tricky, because you may need to make decisions about what you need next year before you have sales for the current holiday season. However, if you have data from the year prior, review that. It may help you make educated guesses on what will work for next year.
  • Try to offer packaged goods instead of foods grocery store employees have to assemble. For example, instead of offering a party platter that requires someone in-store to build it, can you can offer a platter that arrives to the store ready for the deli case? Look for ways to drive appeal to the consumer with a store-made look and feel without the store having to put in the labor.

How a Broker Can Help

There are many ways the right retail food broker partner can help get holiday food products into retailers.

First, because brokers have existing relationships with retailers, they can easily find out what retailers are looking for. Every retailer is different. A broker can learn what holiday food products retailers are interested in for next year. Then, they can work with their manufacturers to deliver unique and creative solutions.

Brokers can also help manufacturers tailor presentations to the retailers. One size does not fit all, especially when pitching seasonal food products. A broker who knows each retailer you’re approaching should know the right angle to take to be effective.

Once orders are placed and products are delivered to stores, brokers can make sure they’re displayed correctly. For example, our Retail Representatives visit retailers to ensure our clients’ products are on shelves and have strong placement. This service is especially important with holiday food products, because they don’t have a usual place on the shelf like year-round items do.

Do you want to get your holiday food products into retailers next year? The time to start is now. Contact us today to see how our expertise, technology and strong retail team can help you succeed.

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5 Tips for New Food Manufacturers

Our Owner, President and CEO Cammie Chatterton has worked in the food industry for over thirty years. In fact, she was one of the first women in the country to open a retail food brokerage company, in 1993. Currently, Bay Food Brokerage is one of the fastest-growing businesses in Tampa Bay, where we’re based.

So, to say Cammie knows a lot about the retail food industry is an understatement. This includes her deep understanding of what it takes for new food manufacturers to succeed.

Cammie often consults with start-up food manufacturers looking to her for guidance. The following are the five most important tips she shares with them.

  1. Understand your target audience

It’s critical that new food manufacturers understand their target audiences and their preferences. This will play a role in everything from flavor selection to package design.

“For example, we’ve seen with some of our clients that Millennials tend to like unique flavors,” Cammie said. “Meanwhile, Baby Boomers might prefer the same product in more traditional flavors.”

As another example, one of our clients puts a QR code on their packaging. The brand knows it appeals to a younger, tech-savvy audience who knows how to use the code.

“Just don’t throw a new product against the wall to see what sticks,” Cammie said. “Understand your customers and what they want first.”

  1. Design appealing and functional packaging

New food manufacturers should design product packaging that appeals to its target audience. This should take into account everything from the overall look and feel of the visual branding to the information provided.

“Consumers want to know what is in what they’re eating and where it comes from,” Cammie said. “It’s important that products put their attributes front and center on their packaging.”

Also, food manufacturers looking to get their product into grocery stores need to consider what it will look like on the shelf. Will it fit into the shelf space? How will it look next to other products? Is it designed to be displayed both vertically and horizontally?

“I recently had a buyer tell a manufacturer that the packaging had to be two-sided in order for him to buy the product,” Cammie said. “That way, he’d have the flexibility to display the product horizontally or vertically.”

  1. Hire a retail food brokerage company that knows your category

A lot of new manufacturers want to keep in their pockets the small percentage-of-sales fee that a retail food brokerage company requires. However, if you work with the right broker, the sales the company makes will far outweigh the commission fee.

A retail food brokerage company can be a partner to help you navigate the industry and maximize sales. Look for a company that has its finger on the pulse of what’s going on in your food category.

“If you’re selling meat, hire a retail food brokerage company that’s an expert in meat,” Cammie said. “A good broker will be your eyes and ears and will direct you appropriately.”

  1. Sell your products in smaller retailers first

It’s extremely rare for a new food manufacturer to get a product into a major retailer immediately upon launch. This is actually a good thing, because there are benefits to selling a product in smaller retail stores first.

“Starting with a smaller retailer allows new food manufacturers to work out any kinks,” Cammie said. “You’d rather make mistakes with a 20-store chain than a 2,000-store chain.”

Also, having strong sales with smaller retailers can only help when pursuing the larger retailers later.

  1. Have a marketing plan and budget

Getting a new product onto store shelves isn’t the end of the game. Food manufacturers need to have a marketing plan and budget.

The marketing plan should include the strategies and tactics you plan to execute for the product. And the budget should account for all costs involved. That may include marketing research expenses, professional fees and advertising spending.

“Advertising doesn’t have to cost a lot,” Cammie said. “But new manufacturers have to have a plan for marketing their product.”

Looking for a retail food brokerage company to get your product into stores? Contact us today to learn more.

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