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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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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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