So you’d like to increase the number of retailers and stockists that sell your food products - but not sure how to go about it or where to start?
Launching a wholesale range and pitching to retailers can be a bit of a minefield when you are first starting out or once you’ve secured your first couple of listings and are looking to expand the number of stockists.
In this blog post I’ll share my 7 Steps to getting your food products stocked with retailers. There are no guarantees when it comes to working with retailers but these tips will considerably improve your chances of success.
1. Write out a list of stockist you'd like to work with
It helps to have a clear idea of who you would like to sell your wholesale products to. Are you looking at supermarkets, independent farm shops, deli’s or gifts shops. Or department stores? It’s a good idea to do some research and draw up a shortlist of stores and stockists. Always do the work to check that your products are a good fit for them, and equally that is the right sort of retail outlet for your brand.
2. Work out your wholesale prices
Working out your wholesale pricing is a crucial. You need to make sure you get your margins/marks up correct and do the work to make sure that you have a financially viable proposition. Don’t forget to factor in costs like shipping and listing fees or any marketing / publicity that the retailer may require. It’s also really important to future proof your pricing strategy to allow for bringing in distributors / intermediaries when you start to scale and need extra support to service a growing number of outlets.
3. Pitch to retailers
This may look like a bit of an obvious one, but in order to grow your range of stockists, you have to actually pitch to them. You can’t sit back and expect stockists to come and find you. Sure, some stockists will contact you when they come across your products but you can’t rely on this. If you find a stockist that you would like to work with then you need to pitch. Don't be frightened by the thought of pitching or let the fear of rejection stop you.
Related: 25 Great Places to Sell Your Food Products
4. Having a clear wholesale process in place will help
What I can tell you from my own experience, and the experience of the food businesses I work with, is that achieving success when working with retailers is not about how wonderful, unique and delicious your product is. It’s not about how large your business is or how much backing you have behind you.
It is absolutely about process. It’s about lining your ducks up in a row, having a process mapped out that you follow and test and tweak over time. And setting time aside every month to contact retailers, pitch, follow up. And rinse and repeat etc etc.
5. Getting wholesale stockists takes time
Like so many things in business gaining listings with retailers takes time. In all honesty, more time than you think it will. I’ve spoken previously about gaining a listing with Harrods, which took me 3 years in total. Even if you get an immediate reply (not unheard of!) buyers can get busy so sometimes things go a bit quiet in the middle of negotiations. Buyers often change mid way through the year. Once you’ve got further down the line, there is often a fair bit of paperwork and internal sign off needed. It all takes time and quite often there is very little you can do to speed things up. So you just have to make sure you’re doing everything you can, but then just go with the flow.
Related: How to Sell Your Food Products to Harrods
7. Persistence pays when it comes to working with retailers
Launching into offering wholesale is not a short term, quick fix strategy. It’s about building long term mutually beneficial relationships with retailers over a period of time. Some listings you’ll get straight away, others will allude you in spite of all your pitching, follow up etc etc. It kind of just goes with the territory and you can’t take it too personally. And you definitely have to toughen up a little bit and learn to cope with rejection when it comes. Because it will. In the Game of Retailers you will win some, you’ll lose some. But don’t give up. It may be a ‘no’ for now, but that could change. As buyers change, as trends change, as suppliers change.
So there you have it my 7 Steps to getting your food products stocked with retailers
So tell me, who are your dream retailers that you would love to get a listing with?
Have you tried pitching to retailers? What has been the result?
Til the next time
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Running a food business can be a lonely affair and having a support network to call on from fellow food businesses, to share the journey - the highs and lows is so crucial.
If you run your business from home, or if you’re a one person start up, it’s easy to become isolated and feel alone. Family and friends are great but they don’t always understand the path we are on and are not always best qualified to give us advice and guidance.
It’s so important as you launch and grow your business to prioritise building a support network. Those people you can call on and turn to when you’re experiencing a difficult patch in your business or just need some advice. But equally - your cheerleader squad - those people who will rejoice with you when you bag that coveted client and help you to celebrate the wins.
Related: Food Entrepreneurship & wellbeing. 5 strategies that have helped me.
Two ways that I have found that have helped me to build my network have been through in person meet ups and online memberships.
I go into a bit more detail on both of these below
1. In person meet ups for food entrepreneurs
When I first started my business there were very few resources, events for the food industry. This has changed in recent years, with the likes of Bread & Jam, Enterprise Nation and Virgin Start Up putting on events focusing on the food start up / growth journey. Alongside a host of more local events.
For a long time I wanted to organise my own series of events and recently I was excited to host my first event in Luton. The photos in this blog post are from that event.
The event was an amazing success, and so much fun. In amongst all the talk of retailers, margins and packaging there was laughter. Lots of laughter.
If you’re interested in joining us for our next meet up then do come and join my Facebook group for Food Entrepreneurs to get all the details on tickets when they are released.
2. Online Membership for Food Entrepreneurs
As a busy food entrepreneur it’s not always easy to take time out of the business to attend events as much as we would like to. Also geography can make it difficult to take part if you don’t live near London or a big urban centre where most of the events seem to take place. In this case, an online membership might be perfect for you.
Generally, online memberships offer a range of benefits including training, masterclasses, coaching and other activities to help you grow your business or tackle a specific area of your business.
Online memberships vary in price but generally are an affordable way of working with a coach who’s 1-2-1 or bespoke packages might be more expensive or beyond your reach depending on the stage of business you’re in.
I’ve been in a few memberships in my time and the most powerful part of them has been the community. It’s finding a tribe of people who are on the same journey as you and being able to form friendships across geography and to some degree - time.
It’s for these reasons that I set up the Food Entrepreneur Academy for female food entrepreneurs and created the kind of membership I wish I’d had when I was running my food business.
The Food Entrepreneur Academy membership will give you:
All this for just £30 per month. As the membership grows and I add more trainings & resources, the price will likely increase. But if you sign up today, you will only ever pay £30 per month for as long as you remain a member. (Please note that if you are reading this post in the future, the price may have increased).
If you’re a female food entrepreneur and are thinking that this sounds like just what you need then you can get more info here.
I’d love to have you in the membership so I can continue to work with you closely and help you grow your business. If you’ve been thinking about signing up - now’s the time to do it before the price increases. There’s no tie in so you’re free to leave at any time if you find its not for you.
But don't just take my word for it. Here are some testimonials from food entrepreneurs just like you who I have worked with.
I hope this blog post have given you some ideas on how you too can build a support network for your business both online and offline.
Til the next time
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Do you struggle with pricing your food products?
Do your customers often tell you that your products are too expensive?
When you’re working out your pricing, do you get that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach because YOU think your prices are too high?
Are you struggling to get your pricing to work for you for retail, wholesale and working with distributors / intermediaries?
If this sounds like you then this blog post will help. In this post I will cover the 3 biggest mistakes that food business make with their pricing.
1. The Maths
The first mistake that many food businesses make with their pricing is with the maths. There is a simple formula for calculating prices of your food products but part of the issue arises with pricing because food entrepreneurs don’t add in all the costs they need to. As they start to fill in their spreadsheet they make a judgement call about how those price are going to be received (my prices are too expensive).
And to make their prices seem more “reasonable” they start to ignore / hide/ disregard certain costs. They set their pricing on a “just for now” basis. ie I’ll just use these prices for now and change them later
The problem with this approach is that you are building up problems for the future because once you start down this road it’s very easy to keep hiding or ignoring costs. While you are based at home or just starting out and it’s just you, you can get away with it.
But there will come a time when you start to scale that you will need to re invest in order to fund your growth. You might need to employ staff, buy equipment, or start working with intermediaries like distributors and wholesalers. You’re business won’t grow/flourish if you’re just covering your costs and have no slack in your pricing to cover the
You have to get comfortable with including ALL your costings and not cherry picking particular ones to make your pricing “look right.” Once you have worked out your pricing including all the costs then this a really opportunity to look at what the pricing is telling and you if needed, go back to the drawing board and see if you can find more cost effective options for your packaging or new suppliers for your ingredients for example.
Related: 5 Steps to Pricing Your Products for a Profitable Food Business
The second mistake that many food businesses make with their pricing is with the mindset. Many small food producers struggle with mindset around pricing. It can be hard to feel comfortable presenting, talking about and pitching your products if at a fundamental level, you believe your prices are too high (or too low).
In order to be able to sell your products confidently you have - at a very basic level - to believe in your brand and products and be able to articulate your brand proposition in an unwavering and unapologetic way.
If any point your customers pick up any vibes from you that your products are not worth the prices you are charging, then they will not buy.
The third mistake that many food businesses make with their pricing is with the marketing.
Some small producers struggle in the area of pricing because their pricing strategy is not aligned with their marketing strategy.
They are not super clear on who their ideal customer is, so they struggle to speak to and resonate with these customers through their marketing. So they struggle to attract enough of the right sorts of customers - those customers who will love their products, rave about their products and go on to become life long fans.
As a small producer are you doing the work to understand who your customers are and then making sure that your press / PR, the events that you attend, the collaborations you do - does this all align and in the customers mind make you unmistakably the brand that they must buy? So that when it comes to buying your products they don’t even quibble over price.
And to do this well, particularly in a fine food environment you need to almost become “marmite” Your marketing needs to attract your ideal customer and repel those customers who are not your ideal customers. Those customers who don’t understand the value proposition of your brand and are never going to become your customers.
Don’t worry about turning these customers away. Don’t focus your energy, budget and time trying to convince these people o buy from you. Stay strong hold fast to your vision of your business and concentrate on giving your ideal customers, the people who do buy from a fantastic, unforgettable experience, and they’ll come back time and time again.
Related: 25 Great Places to Sell Your Food Products Checklist
So there you have it, the top 3 mistakes that food businesses make with their pricing. It’s amazing how once you get clear on who your ideal clients is, and learn how to communicate with them and turn them into customers and get a steady stream of them coming to your door, all of a sudden you no longer have a pricing problem.
Has this blog post helped you to rethink your approach to pricing. How will you use some of the points I've raised in the next few weeks to change things up in your business? Leave me a comment below, I'd love to hear from you ❤️
Til the next time
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Hey I'm Nila. I make beautiful iced biscuits and I'd like to help you launch or scale your baking business. Welcome to my blog.