Food and food-related products will always be in high demand. Thus, it is no surprise that a lot of small business entrepreneurs want to start their own food businesses.
An acquaintance of mine developed a superb barbeque sauce, while the mom of my son’s friend just started a business importing rice bran oil from Asia to the United States. Both sell online, but their biggest goals have been to get their products on the shelves of as many groceries as possible. Afterall, Americans still buy most of their food from grocery stores.
Here are ways you can get your food products into the groceries’ shelves:
1. Create a top-notch packaging label. Your food product’s packaging should not only meet regulatory standards, but that it should look professional with an eye-catching design. Product packaging should be functional and be able to protect the food product. But it is your silent salesman, and could be one of your most important ways for communicating your brand’s message. It can also help your product stand out in the grocery shelves. Be sure to hire a professional to design your product’s packaging for you.
2. Find a distributor for your food product. Many grocers, especially the national chains, only deal with distributors. A sales distributor is important if you want your products to be sold in as many groceries and retail outlets in the country (and even internationally). However, for many foods business owners, this is the toughest part of the challenge. It’s not going to be easy, but they are your best bet. Some distributors will not want to deal with you UNLESS you can prove that there is customer demand for your product (it’s a chicken and egg situation, I know). To find a sales distributor, contact food distributor associations such as the NorthEast Wholesale Food Distribution Association http://www.newfda.org/
3. Attend trade shows. Find food related trade shows and grocery related trade shows. Participating in trade shows is not cheap — you have to pay for the cost of booth, cost of participation in the trade show, travel, samples, etc. But for many starting entrepreneurs, trade shows are a very important vehicle to getting their products out there. A local manager of a grocery may reject your products, but you may be able to meet higher-up executives in trade shows and may express interest in your products. Check out various strategies for a successful trade show participation, including tips for trade show success on a small budget.
4. Network, network and network. WHO YOU KNOW is very important. Find out who makes the recommendations/decisions in your local groceries, and approach them. Check with all your acquaintances, or cold call the grocery stores. Use LinkedIn to see if any local executives of your grocery stores have a profile, and befriend them. Participate in your Chamber of Commerce. The important thing is to widen your network and get to know the decision makers. Try to get an introduction and get to know them, particularly what makes them decide what products to add in their stores.
5. Talk to smaller and local groceries. You may stand a better chance with the smaller mom and pop groceries in your area. Start small — this could also help you prove to distributors that there is indeed a demand for your products. This is especially true if your food product is new to the market, and the sales distributors need convincing that people wants to buy your products.