Analysis: How to get your food product listed by retailers

For many food entrepreneurs, getting their products onto the shelves of specialist, regional and national retailers is an important goal.

But before you try and secure these listings, it’s important to understand what retailers need and how they work.

Understanding retailers

Retailers are not in the business of selling your product for you.

They are in the business of renting out their real estate, their shelf space, to the best performing products they can select. If your product doesn’t meet certain sales criteria it will be delisted, the retailer will stop selling it.

Keep the following in mind:

  • Shelfspace is a finite commodity – to list a new product, an existing product needs to be delisted or given reduced space.
  • Adding new products is risky for retail buyers because they are placing a bet on an unknown performer. You need to offer something that others don’t, innovation, profitability, a product that answers a consumer trend. 
  • You cannot be a me-too product and expect interest from buyers. 

Some of the questions you will need to ask yourself before you present your products to distributors and retailers include: 

  • Will you be working with a distributor or will you fulfill directly? Both options have benefits and drawbacks. 
  • Will you be working with a broker to open accounts?
  • Who will be looking after your merchandizing and make sure that your products look great on shelf?
  • Are your UPC codes GS-1 registered?
  • Do you have the correct insurance? Does your distributor need to be listed as a direct beneficiary? 
  • Are your production facilities provincially or federally inspected? 
  • Who will train the sales reps? Are your sales sheets designed to meet industry standards?
  • How many free fills can you afford? 
  • How much can you afford for listing fees?
  • What is your launch marketing budget?

Especially for a first-time food or drinks entrepreneur, the list of things you need to think about can be head-spinningly complex. 

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