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5 Things Food Manufacturers can do to Prevent Shortages

Food supply chain issues are still causing challenges for food manufacturers and retailers. This is resulting in shortages on orders and empty grocery store shelves for many products.

But, there are several things food manufacturers can do to avoid shortages. In this post, Bay Food’s Director of Deli & Emerging Business Erin McCulloch-Crume shares helpful tips for manufacturers.

1. Be proactive

As a first step in helping to prevent shortages, food manufacturers should keep an eye on food supply chain issues that may affect production. This includes the ability to get raw materials, like product ingredients and packaging.

For example, the war in Ukraine has made it hard to get sunflower oil and wheat. Egg and chicken prices are surging because of an outbreak of avian flu in the U.S. In Europe, high milk prices are raising the costs of imported dairy products. And, climate and pest problems in Canada and France have affected manufacturers’ ability to source mustard seed.

“The best course of action is to think proactively, imagining what-if scenarios,” Erin said. “If you know certain raw materials may be hard or impossible to get, be prepared to pivot. Plan accordingly and get creative.”

2. Diversify ingredients and suppliers

One way manufacturers can get around food supply chain issues is by diversifying their ingredients and suppliers.

“The moment you find out about a crop shortage, consider whether you can reformulate your product to substitute an ingredient,” Erin said. “For example, if you usually use sunflower oil, see if you can use olive oil instead.”

Also, identify multiple suppliers for your ingredients. That way, if one runs out, you have others that may be able to deliver. And, look globally, not only at suppliers in the U.S.

“Don’t have just one mustard seed supplier, have two or three,” Erin said. “Have them all vetted in advance and set up in your system. That way, you can order from them immediately if your go-to supplier is out of an ingredient you need.”

3. Prepare to pivot packaging

When it comes to working around food supply chain issues to avoid shortages, manufacturers should also prepare to getting creative with packaging.

“Have a contingency plan when it comes to packaging,” Erin said. “For example, if your container usually uses in-mold printing, have a back-up plan that involves blank tubs and stickers. These are quick and easy to print if getting film ever becomes a problem. Have the artwork designed and a vendor lined up so you can act quickly if you need to pivot.”

Also, know that if you may need to substitute an ingredient in a product (as described above), you can include it in your ingredient deck on the packaging even if you haven’t reformulated yet.

“According to the FDA, as long as it doesn’t change the nutritional information, products can overstate ingredients listed on the package,” said Erin.

This means if a product currently uses sunflower oil but may need to switch to olive oil in the future, list both in the ingredient deck. This will prevent having to reprint all the packaging later if you need to reformulate.

4. Ask for more lead-time

Current food supply chain issues and logistics challenges are delaying the process at every stage. So, manufacturers should be adjusting their production and delivery timelines. Sometimes, retailers can help with this process to alleviate shortages.

“Ask retailers to increase your lead-time,” Erin said. “If they agree, that gives production teams more time to make the product needed. And every day counts.”

5. Talk to your broker

If food supply chain issues are creating an area of concern, talk to your retail food broker right away.

“Your broker should help you come up with a strategy and plan for addressing the challenges that may be coming,” Erin said. “And, they’ll help you communicate that to the retailer. Transparency and communication are the most important things manufacturers can maintain with their retailers.”

The above tips can help manufacturers navigate food supply chain issues and avoid shortages. But, sometimes shortages still happen. When it does, Erin has advice for how food manufacturers can best maintain relationships with retailers.

“Offer retailers short-term solutions and options, even if that means suggesting other suppliers until you can get products back on shelves,” she said. “This is about long-term thinking versus short-term thinking. Retailers will appreciate honesty and the supplier acting as a valued partner.”

Looking for a retail food broker to help you navigate food supply chain issues? Contact us today to learn how we can help.

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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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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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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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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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