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Category Archives: Manufacturers

Why Food Manufacturers Should Become B Corp Certified

Nearly 5,000 Certified B Corporation companies worldwide tout the “B” logo on their packaging and materials. So, food manufacturers may be wondering what it is and whether they should pursue it.

“Simply put, the B Corp Certification recognizes companies that are good for the world,” said Bay Food’s Executive Vice President Chris Chatterton. “This is an unbiased rating system. It assesses companies and whether what they’re doing is really good for people, communities and the environment.”

Read on to learn more about B Corp Certification and why your company may want to earn this designation.

What is B Corp Certification?

B Corp Certification is administered by B Lab, a nonprofit network “transforming the global economy to benefit all people, communities and the planet.”

Certified B Corporation companies receive this designation for meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability and transparency related to a number of factors. These factors range from employee benefits to charitable giving to supply chain practices to input materials.

But there’s more to B Lab’s movement than just the standards and certification process. The organization’s network also leads economic systems change to support an inclusive, equitable and regenerative economy.

What are the assessment standards Certified B Corporation companies must meet?

B Lab’s standards and the B Corp Certification define social, environmental and governance best practices for businesses.

More than 150,000 businesses worldwide have used the B Impact Assessment. This digital tool can help businesses measure, manage and improve positive impact performance for:

  • Environment
  • Communities
  • Customers
  • Suppliers
  • Employees
  • Shareholders

Then, businesses that receive a minimum score of 80 points on the assessment can take the first step toward certification.

Why Food Manufacturers Should Become B Corp Certified

Two of the five “Retail Trends to Watch in 2022” we blogged about earlier this year were mission-based brands and showcasing sustainability of meat and dairy products.

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

  • Support or employee underrepresented communities
  • Focus on the wellbeing of their customers and workers
  • Strongly support nonprofits and even their own foundations

Also, many consumers are paying more attention to how manufacturers are producing the meat and dairy they buy. For instance, consumers look at how companies raise the animals and how production impacts the environment.

Both of these trends align with best practices Certified B Corporation companies follow.

Certified B Corporation companies we work with

Bay Food Brokerage proudly represents clients that are Certified B Corporation companies. This includes The GFB Gluten Free Bites and Tillamook County Creamery Association.

According to Tillamook’s Director of Sales focused on the Eastern U.S., Stephanie Carson, “A Certified B Corporation meets the highest standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability. Being good stewards of cows and farms, of people and products, of our communities and the environment, lies at the heart of everything we do.”

The GFB’s CEO, Marshall Rader, said the following about B Corp Certification:

“From the start of The GFB, we wanted to do things the right way – treat people well, build relationships, and do our part to support the environment and the community. Over the years, we refined that to our core focus of ‘Enrich the lives of our team, our customers, and our planet.’ Becoming a certified B Corp was a way to embody all those actions. And the B Corp certification process is also a great framework to help you understand and improve your positive impact year-to-year.”

Looking for a Southeast retail food broker who understands the value of B Corp Certification? If so, contact us today to learn how we can help.

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How Manufacturers Can Address Food Supply Chain Challenges

It’s all over the news – labor shortages, food logistics issues, global supply chain problems. The average supermarket shopper has probably at least once tried to buy an item on their shopping list in recent months that wasn’t on the store shelf.

As a leading Southeast grocery broker, we have an inside look at the challenges food manufacturers face right now. We’re also in a unique position to help them through these tough times.

Susan Jamieson, Administrative Team Lead, and Erin McCulloch-Crume, Director of Deli & Emerging Business, share their insights on today’s food logistics challenges – and how to address them – in this blog post.

Q: What is one of the biggest logistics-related challenges manufacturers face right now?

Susan Jamieson, Administrative Team Lead

Susan: Driver shortages are making it difficult for manufacturers to find reliable carriers at prices they can afford. And when a retailer is trying to add on to a purchase order or get a product earlier, it’s rare right now that a trucking company can come through. Or, at least without overcharging.

Also, if manufacturers can’t produce enough product to completely fill a truck, it’s extremely difficult to find and secure less-than-truckload delivery options.

Q: What are the ripple effects when manufacturers can’t get their products to retailers?

Susan: These food logistics problems impact the business of the manufacturers and the retailers. Obviously, if there’s no product to sell, that’s going to have consequences for businesses. And, consumers can become dissatisfied with retailers when they can’t get the products they expect on the shelf.

There is also a snowball effect with orders. Once a retailer is shorted once, they start to order double and triple their normal demand to refill their pipeline. This makes it even more difficult for the supplier to fill their needs.

These global food supply chain issues directly impact the consumers’ wallets, too. When production and transportation pricing go up, prices of the products go up.

Consumers may have noticed fewer promotions, as well. This is because promotions require an even greater volume of product. Manufacturers are already having a difficult time fulfilling standard purchase orders, so manufacturers aren’t offering as many product discounts right now.

Q: What can manufacturers do to help alleviate or work around some of these challenges?

Erin McCulloch-Crume, Director of Deli & Emerging Business

Erin: We’re seeing a lot of manufacturers assessing which SKUs are performing best and ceasing production of those that aren’t selling at as high a volume. In other words, SKU rationalizing. This helps manufacturers focus packaging, labor and transportation efforts on the specific products selling at the highest volume. By doing so, they maintain inventory on the items that are most important for the consumers to have on-shelf.

Also, as Susan mentioned, manufacturers should be strategic with offering promotions. Part of this is opting out of promotions that would make filling orders impractical or impossible. For example, it probably doesn’t make sense to offer a potato salad promotion for July 4th if the manufacturer is already having difficulty producing enough to meet standard orders.

Also, manufacturers should be adjusting their production and delivery timelines. Current food logistics and global supply chain challenges are delaying the process at every stage. Understanding and adjusting for this can help manufacturers decrease delays and shortages to the retailers. Increasing lead-time by even one day gives production teams an additional 24 hours to make the product needed. And every day counts. 

Q: What can a grocery broker do to help manufacturers through these food logistics challenges?

Erin: The right grocery broker partner can be a valuable resource for food manufacturers, especially during this difficult time.

We’ve talked about promotions a couple of times. Brokers can educate retailers and manufacturers on how to be smart with promotions. This includes putting in place a plan to succeed with promotion strategy.

Also, brokers can act as a key communicator and advisor in managing shortages or potential shortages. For example, the broker is responsible for getting accurate forecasts from the retailer to the manufacturer so they can plan accordingly for orders. The broker can advise on lead times for supplies and labor and keep all involved up to speed on production and delivery status.

On the same note, if the grocery broker knows supply chain challenges will cause a manufacturer to be short on product, communication can help here, too. The broker can work with the retailer to reallocate the product where needed. For example, the broker can find out which stores already have enough product and which need more. Then, the manufacturer can deliver the product to the appropriate distribution centers to, hopefully, avoid empty store shelves.

Lastly, our retail reps on our brokerage team serve as eyes and ears in grocery stores for our manufacturers. If we see a brand has empty shelf space and one of our clients can fill it with their product, we’ll pursue that.

A good broker knows the nuances of every retailer and the capabilities of their manufacturer clients. The broker can bridge gaps to better serve manufacturers, retailers and, at the end of the day, customers.

Looking for a grocery broker to help your brand navigate global supply chain problems? Contact us today to learn how we can help.

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10 Questions You Must Ask Before Hiring a CPG Broker

If you’re a food manufacturer looking for a CPG broker, it’s important to know that not all brokers are created equally. They can vary widely in a number of ways. This includes how long the company has existed, the level of service they provide, and even the core values they hold dear.

Choosing a CPG broker to act as your liaison to retailers is a big decision. You want to feel confident that their services will garner results and that their overall approach aligns well with your goals.

When you’re considering which CPG broker to hire for your brand, here are 10 questions to ask. Their answers will help you decide whether or not they will be the right partner for your needs.

1. When was your company founded?

The longer a food brokerage has been around, the safer it is to assume it’s a reputable company that knows the industry. That’s not to say that newer CPG brokers are unable to deliver for their clients. However, they may not yet have a proven track-record of success, as some of the longer-established brokerages have.

2. Do you have relationships with the retailers we want to target?

Make sure that the CPG broker you’re considering hiring has strong relationships with the people at the retailers you want to target. This can include corporate/headquarters contacts, category managers and others who decide whether or not to sell your product in their stores. CPG brokers with these relationships bring a great deal of value to their clients. This includes the speed with which they often can set up meetings and insights on what the retailer is looking for in products.

3. Do you offer any administrative support?

Find out if the CPG broker you’re interviewing would take any administrative burden off your team. For example, at Bay Food Brokerage, our admin team helps our clients with loading promotions, building new item forms and running post-promotion analyses.

4. If we get our product into stores, who will be providing the in-store sales support?

Different brokers use different types of teams to provide in-store sales support for their clients. This can include day labor, hourly employees and full-time salaried employees. (Bay Food uses the latter, which we find translates to a motivated team that’s more committed to our clients’ success.) This can indicate the level of dedication you can expect from the CPG broker’s retail team.

5. How often do your retail representatives visit stores, and what do they do there?

It’s important to know how often the CPG broker’s team will visit the retail stores selling your product. Ideally, they will be frequently visiting to check inventory, fill voids, meet with store managers and fulfill any other needs on your behalf on a regular basis.

6. What level of communication and reporting will you deliver?

It’s important to know you can get the information you need from your CBG broker quickly. Ask about typical response times, how long it takes for them to generate requested reports and how often they will meet with you. Hopefully, you will find a partner who will get back to you quickly, has the flexibility to generate reports fast and will meet with you as often as you need. That’s our approach at Bay Food Brokerage.

7. What are your company’s values?

Of course, there is more to business partnerships than simply getting results. Relationships and values matter, too. Learn about the CPG broker’s company culture and core values. Consider whether they align well with what’s important to your company and staff.

8. Do you buy any syndicated data?

Syndicated 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 the CPG broker’s team. It also makes them a better partner when their clients are developing products and formulating sales strategies. For instance, at Bay Food Brokerage, we partner with SPINS to get big data and analytics for the natural, organic and specialty products industry.

9. How long have your executives and team leads been in the retail food industry?

Similar to the first question about how long the CPG broker has been around, it can be helpful to know how long its executives have worked in the retail food industry. Broker leaders with long-term service in the industry can bring a high level of valuable experience and expertise to their clients.

10. Can I talk to your existing clients?

A reputable CPG broker is happy to share references and client testimonials. Talk to existing clients for more insight on whether the broker you’re considering would be a good fit for your brand. If a brokerage company won’t offer a list of references, consider that a red flag.

10. Can I talk to your existing clients?

What better way to learn what a CPG broker’s retail reps would do for you than to visit a store and see for yourself? Make the request only a day or two in advance. That way, you will get the truest sense of how the retail team really works.

Considering hiring a CPG broker for your food brand? Contact us today to learn how we can help.

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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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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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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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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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