Sometimes perceived as the Holy Grail, getting your brand into the big retailers isn’t always the right thing to do. They can be difficult to deal with and invariably don’t consider the long-term when negotiating the terms.
Gone are the days a brand is given 12-18 months to work. If rate-of-sale is not good after 3 months, the delisting guillotine is usually not far away; ready for another brand, or more likely, own label to take its place.
But if you feel selling through the grocery multiples is a profitable and sustainable strategy, here are a few tips to help you get listed.
1. Start with smaller, regional retailers. Demonstrate that your product sells.
Smaller, independent retailers are easier to deal with. You can usually get direct access to the buyer and decisions are made infinitely quicker than with the big boys. The grocery multiples have buying windows, so any potential listing can take months to happen. With the smaller chains and independent stores, it can be a matter of days.
This approach enables you to test the market and make any necessary adaptations, which are cheaper on a smaller scale. It also means you can take these learnings (from the optimal pricing strategy to sales figures) to the larger retailers to demonstrate there is a demand for your product.
2. Find the right distributor.
Distributors already have the relationships with grocery multiples. Buyers tend to be very time-short and prefer to deal with as few as people as possible. As you can imagine, they are inundated with approaches from both established and startup brands.
Find the right distributor who understands your product, your consumers and who has good relationships with the large retailers.
Of course, you need to incorporate the cost of this, as distributors will expect anything between 20 and 30% margin.
3. Go to trade shows.
They are expensive and time consuming, but it gets your brand name out there. You’ll also meet other, more established brands, who can offer you advice, or even an introduction to buyers.
It’s also a good way to grow your customer base (as you will be selling at these events) as well as your social community; all good data to use in your presentation to retailers when the time is right.
4. Know the retailer.
What’s the retailer’s short to medium-term strategy towards procurement? For example, Tesco is currently looking at reducing food waste. They have given themselves certain targets to meet by 2020, so any innovative product or packaging that helps them achieve this, will stand a fair chance of being heard.
Also, they are looking at brands with reduced sugar and alternative healthy snacking options.
Fulfilling these criteria alone won’t get you very far, but as part of an overall strategy, it’s another box ticked.
5. Know your competition. What makes you different?
You need to look at who else is on the shelf. Your competition. What do you offer that is different to them? Why should the retailer replace one brand for yours?
I met Kevin Bath, the founder of a brand call Jim Jams, in the summer. Jim Jams is a hazelnut, chocolate spread, with 83% less sugar than Nutella. It has just got a listing in Tesco and I can understand why. It tastes great and it’s healthier than the alternative, Nutella. Tesco is happy, because, even as the sugar debate rolls on, Nutella is flying off the shelves – faster than any other spread. The sector has been crying out for a challenger brand for years and now it has one.
Persistence is the final piece of advice. It’s not easy getting a new brand into the grocery multiples, but once in, don’t make the mistake of not supporting your brand.
I remember some advice, Giles Brook, the ex-CEO of Vita Coco gave whilst being interviewed at the Good Food Show. Sometimes it’s better to go deep than wide. What he meant by that was, national distribution isn’t always best at the start. Choose the best locations that fit your brand and where your core consumers are likely to be. Support those stores – drive rate-of-sale in these stores, then grow from there.