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
Other blog posts you might like to read:
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
Other blog posts you might like to read:
If you are looking for new customers, clients and stockists for your food business then this blog post is for you. It’s based on outlets where I sold my biscuit products plus a few extra’s that I’ve added to the list.
I'm sharing it in case in can help you to think of potential new customers for your food business. When I was starting out in my food business, I had a clear of list of customers that I wanted to work with.
As my business started to grow and I increased my sales and marketing activities, exhibited at food industry trade shows, launched a wholesale range for my food business, that's when I started discovering new potential clients and customers that weren't even on my radar.
Related: Top Trade Shows for your Food & Drink Business
It’s worth saying at this stage that I used one basic biscuit recipe to come up with products for most of these customers which helped with my basic pricing, achieving economies of scale etc. I did however, have to adapt and be flexible on the following points in order to secure orders across a range of different customers with different needs and requirements.
✅ shipping costs
✅ payment terms
Some of these outlets were more profitable than others. Some were large scale contracts, others were smaller bespoke orders.
Some I sold under my own brand. Other’s were under a white label basis.
Some were more financially lucrative made than others. Some I did because strategically it made sense to work with the stockists because it gave my brand visibility and credibility.
Here is the list of 25 Great Places to Sell Your Food Products
Ultimately, the goal is not to have a huge unwieldy list of customers. The trick is to get strategic and find the customers that work really well for you, for your business model, for your specific product range and for your longer term aspirations for your food brand.
Related: Becoming a supplier to Harrods
Next, it's key to prioritise. Take one sector at a time. Spend 3-6 months focusing on that specific sector, do your research, set up a list of say 20 customers from that sector that you’d like to target. Prepare and plan your launch, get some sales under your belt, and then build on your successes to grow your sales in that sector.
Setting yourself some financial targets for each sector will also help you to focus and prioritise.
You can get a downloadable version of this blog post as a handy checklist that you can print off and refer back to here:
Click on the image below to download your printable copy of the checklist.
Which of these outlets, clients or customers are you working with now? Any new ones you've discovered?
How could this checklist help you grow your list of customers & sales?
Let me know in the comments below.
Til the next time
Other blog posts you might like to read:
Exhibiting at a trade show can have many benefits for your food business. Whether you have a large presence at the show or small, it is a chance to showcase your prodcuts, meet new buyers and re connect with previous customers.
Many food businesses can be put off exhibiting at trade shows due to the high costs involved, not just for the exhibition space, but also the cost of kitting out the stand, hiring staff, travel and accommodation costs.
This is a very real consideration particularly in the early years of your when you're less likely to have money to invest in sales & marketing. So it’s important to plan in your attendance at trade shows to fit with your wider sales and marketing strategy and not as a stand alone event. Taking this approach will help you to get the best results and best return on investment.
So which are the best trade shows for food & drink businesses? Well, that very much depends on what sector of the food industry you are looking to target and also the nature of your brand / products. There are few shows that have a wider ranging buyer base that attends, others will be specific to the niche they cater for.
Here is a list of the most popular trade shows in the UK food & drink industry.
The Food Service Show Jan 2019
For the catering, restaurant and hotel industry
Food Emporium at Top Drawer Jan & Sept 2019
Showcasing gift focused food & drink from artisan producers
International Food & Drink Event (IFE) March 2019
For cutting-edge food & drink manufacturers focused on food & drink innovation
Fine Food Show North March 2019
Industry event for genuine buyers looking to source the very best in speciality food & drink
Natural & Organic Products Europe April 2019
Europe’s biggest trade show for natural & organic products
Farm Shop & Deli April 2019
For the independent farm shop, delicatessen or artisan food outlet sector
Speciality Fine Food Fair Sept 2019
UK's leading industry showcase of fine food and drink.
Spring Fair Feb 2020 & Autumn Fair Sept 2019
UK’s largest home & gift marketplaces
Lunch Sept 2019
For the cafe, coffee shop and food to go sector
Caffe Culture Oct 2019
Trade event for the Café and Coffee Bar industry
Food Matters Live Nov 2019
Focused on the future of food, drink and sustainable nutrition
Exhibiting at trade shows is only really suitable for food & drink brands looking to grow their wholesale ranges by selling to retailers or other businesses on a B2B basis.
Related: 7 Tips for Food Industry Trade show success
If you are looking to sell direct to the general public at events then exhibiting at consumer shows is the way to go.
Are you planning to exhibit at a trade show? Then you might like to download my printable 21 point checklist to help you with both your pre and post show planning.
You can download a copy of the checklist here.
Til the next time!
So the day of the Royal Wedding is finally upon us! Right about now Harry will be probably nursing a hangover and Meghan will be in a frenzy of hair, make up, being pampered and primped til she feels every inch a princess. She’s probably just a teensy bit anxious about being walked down the aisle by Prince Charles himself
Will you be watching as the days celebrations unfurl? Personally I can’t wait to see the first glimpses of Meghan and her dress. I’m guessing she’ll have her hair up, scraped back off her beautiful face. Willing the world to see that she’s not a bit fazed by the journey she’s about to embark upon.
But also to show all the world, a large number of whom (tabloid press in particular) seemed to focus on nothing more newsworthy than the colour of her skin and her choice of profession, when news broke of her relationship with Prince Harry. As if your ethnic heritage and what you choose to do to earn a wage were the only way to define the measure of a person. (Seriously, it’s 2018. Are we still doing ‘this?’).
But I’ll get off my soap box for now and tell you all about the time I was asked to make biscuits for some Royal VIPs.
It was August 2016 and the news had dropped that the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge were due to visit Luton to open a new Youth project and visit the local hospice.
I was asked by the local organising committee to come up with some Union Jack themed biscuits for the Civic Reception and also some biscuits that the Royal couple could take away with them, as a gift.
It was a seriously nerve racking commission, and I will admit to being a bit anxious about the whole thing in the days leading up to the visit. Admittedly, compared to the very oomplex security arrangements, royal protocols and logistics that other local stakeholders were having to deal with, it was not that complicated. We put a lot of love and attention to detail in every biscuit we make, but this was something above and beyond that.
So the morning of the visit dawned and I popped over to the reception venue super early to drop off the biscuits and set up. This was so that the security services could go in afterward all the vendors had done their bit, do their sweep of the building and secure the site.
I returned to work and popped back a few hours later for the visit. My parents and kids joined me, super proud that my little bakery had been selected to make biscuits for royalty. It was an exciting morning and one I’ll remember for a long time.
A few weeks after the visit, a thick cream envelope arrived in the post. A lovely hand-written note from Kensington Palace thanking me for the biscuits, which was an unexpected but delightful surprise.
This was not the first time I had made biscuits for royalty. A year or two before this, I was commissioned to make biscuits for the then Princess Mako of Japan (she has since married a commoner and therefore forfeited her right to remain a member of the royal household), who had been studying at a university in Scotland and was heading back home. I loved making these biscuits with all the beautiful Japanese names.
So there you have it, my brush with royalty. Whether you watch the wedding or not, I hope have a wonderful Saturday.
Til the next time.
If you're a food or creative entrepreneur starting or scaling your business or looking to turn your hobby into a business then do come over and join my members only facebook group Kitchen Table Entrepreneur where I regularly offer support, tips/tricks and training to help you grow and become profitable.
I look forward to meeting you over there!
Other blog posts you might like to read:
Over the past few weeks, I've been telling you all about my journey to supply Harrods with iced biscuits. This is the fourth and final blog post, if you missed the previous three post then do go back and read these now. There are links to the previous three posts at the bottom of this blog post.
Fast forward to January 2016. So much had happened in such a short space of time.
I’d moved into premises, hired staff and everyone had settled in. We managed to get the distributor project completed - not completely without problems - but generally I was happy with how we’d coped with things as a new team in new premises. Christmas came and went and we’d just picked up our first big corporate client - Benefit Cosmetics - with exciting plans for the months ahead.
We’d also started working with Disney Cakes and Sweets Magazine who approached me after coming across my blog. That came completely out of the blue because I was pretty sure that no -one ever read my blog. I didn’t even know that this was a thing. That a small bakery like mine could be commissioned by Disney to make cakes and cookies to their designs.
It was a new year, fresh start so a few weeks in I thought I’d drop the Harrods buyer a note to see if we could again put forward designs for Christmas. The infamous Christmas brief didn’t hit my inbox til April. Again Harrods were looking for designs that were right up my street.
Scaling a food business
This time however, it felt different. I had a team to help me. I worked up some designs and shared them with the team and asked them to make some changes. One of the things they also needed to look at was exactly how they would produce the designs, how long it would take them, any tweaks they’d make to make sure production was efficient and effective. And crucially, anything they would take away from the designs. I think as creative people sometimes we have a tendency to throw a lot of detail onto a product to make it complete when actually a design is only complete once there’s nothing more you can remove (if that makes sense).
It had been really difficult but I’d reached the point where I’d stepped away from production, from the day to day fo dough making, icing, packing. The team in the bakery handled all of that. Which freed me up to work ‘on’ the business and not ‘in’ the business which is so important when you’re scaling a business.
The Harrods Christmas brief always includes a show stopper and this year the brief included a 3D design that I’d wanted to do for AGES, a sort of biscuit jewellery box. I wasn’t sure about this design because it was intricate and delicate and to be totally honest although I loved it, I didn’t think the costings worked. But I decided to include it anyway at the last minute just to show them our craftmanship.
For the third time I submitted designs and again dropped the samples into Hammersmith (remembering to go to the right place this time). Again the meeting seemed to well and again I waited.
A few weeks later, I got a phone call from the buyer to say that they were still making decisions on Christmas but she was ringing to find out if I’d be up for doing a project with them? Intrigued, I asked for more info and she said that someone from the Harrods Corporate Marketing team would be in touch in the next few days.
Making corporate biscuits for Harrods
It turned out that Harrods were planning the PR around the launch of the Harrods Sale. The Head of Corporate Marketing had been visiting the buying team and had seen the biscuit jewellery box and fallen in love with it and wanted something similar for the sale launch - get this - to be hand delivered on silver platters to key Press and PR contacts. Thankfully I didn’t have to do the hand delivery bit - just the baking.
They had lots of weird and wonderful ideas about jewellery boxes, pearl necklaces & perfume bottles but in the end we settled on a range of biscuits including a 3D Harrods Bag with accessories, some individual Harrods Bag Biscuits and some dresses, shoes and lipsticks biscuits.
It was such an amazing commission, one that I’d dreamed of since I’d started the business. To be working with such an iconic brand, who were so open to creative input and really keen to have something different with wow factor.
The biscuits were a huge success at the sale launch, with lots of comments and shares on social media. My only regret is not doing more press myself, I’m usually quite good getting PR stuff out but I just got so busy it slipped.
This was followed up a few weeks later by another project with Harrods Marketing team, this time to make some biscuits for a top secret project with Fendi.
Making Christmas Iced Biscuits for Harrods
So then, as fate would have it, a few weeks later, the buying team got in touch to say that they’d short listed 8 products that they wanted us to make for Christmas. I was so so chuffed, but a bit apprehensive too. That was a lot of products, and I didn’t want to set us up to fail. Even thought this was my dream, even with staff, premises, more production capacity I knew we had to be realistic about what we could achieve at a busy time. After thinking about it I decided we’d proceed with 6 products, linked to the Harrods Christmas Story.
Every year, Harrods has an instore theme/story for Christmas, with characters, decorations for the store and of course the world famous Christmas Grotto. Each of the 6 biscuits we designed was based on one of the characters. After a long Summer of redesigning, getting through Harrods technical audit and a few more visits to Hammersmith, the first consignment of biscuits went into store mid November 2016.
So there you have it. After 3 years of trying, my dream had finally come true. That Autumn I had Christmas biscuits in Harrods, Selfridges and Fortnums. Hat Trick! To celebrate I took the family on a whistlestop tour of all 3 stores. My kids were amazed and it was such a special feeling standing in Harrods food hall seeing all my products on display.
I’ve included a selection of images above from both the sale launch and Christmas project.
I’m not going to finish with any key points this time. Instead, I’d love it if you would let me have your key points. After reading through over the past few weeks what is the one BIG take away for you. What has surprised you? What insights have your gleaned?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
If you're a food entrepreneur looking to gain listings with premium retailers like Harrods, Fortnum & Mason and Selfridges, I can help you to hone your pitch, coach you in negotiations and generally be a sounding board to help you to achieve your listing. I can give you much needed insight into the process which will save you time and money, and vastly improve your chances of becoming a supplier.
Contact me here to arrange a free 20 min call to discuss coaching packages.
Other blog posts you might like to read:
Over the past two weeks I've been telling you about how I first started conversations with Harrods about stocking my biscuits and the first time I submitted samples to Harrods. If you missed these post then do go back and read it first.
Scaling your food & drink business
So late Spring 2015 I’d had a knock back from Harrods for the second time. I was busy with plans to move production out of my home kitchen to commercial premises. My home kitchen hadn’t been a home kitchen for ages.
What used to be my dining table now had a dough sheeter on it and the dining room was piled high with bubble wrap, tissue paper and boxes. We hadn’t had people round for dinner for ages! As much I was loving the growth in the business I’d reached my limit with running the business from my kitchen and was desperate to get my home back!
But I was apprehensive at the same time. Finding premises, securing finance, negotiating a lease. I was massively out of my comfort zone, I had so much to learn. It was a big step and a huge financial commitment. In truth the enormity of what I was about to undertake kept me awake at night.
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.