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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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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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