An experienced entrepreneur offers tips on selling your food product

Learn more about how to use prepare for and navigate the world of selling your food product in local food stores.

Before a new food business representative walks through the door of a local retailer to pitch their product, they need to be prepared. Suzie Miller, co-owner of Among Friends Baking Mixes, shared six useful tips for businesses based on her experience.

First, according to Miller, build the brand not just the product. A company needs to not only have a product to sell but also a brand that is “authentic, emotionally connecting and can extend to a variety of products.”

Second, use demonstrations to listen and learn and be prepared to give them regularly. Demonstrations are a great way to become familiar with your consumers and build a following for your product. Before entering into a relationship with a retailer, check whether they require demonstrations when they carry your product and whether you or someone they hire is expected to give those demonstrations.

Third, build a “jump off the shelf” presence. Use attractive packaging and promotions to help the brand sell itself. Since it is not economically feasible to build a business by demonstrations alone, your product and brand needs to grab the attention of a consumer without you being there.

Fourth, find low-risk ways to experiment. Talk to friends and customers about new ideas and get feedback from networking events. When trying new marketing or product ideas, work with a limited number of trusted retail locations.

Fifth, build distribution from a position of strength. In other words, start delivering directly to a number of stores and, ideally, an “opinion leader” store that other stores respect. Once you have developed direct delivery to six to eight stores and are confident in the amount of monthly sales to those stores, bring in a distributor(s) to hand over your established accounts to.  In deciding on which distributor to select, ask your retailer who they recommend.

Finally, Miller advises to invest wisely and “DROOC,” meaning Don’t Run Out of Cash! Spend your time and money wisely and continuously refine your business plan. “Cash flow can be tightest when business is strong, so always plan a cushion,” Miller says.

The MSU Product Center, in partnership with Michigan State University Extension, provides supply chain and cashflow assistance to help Michigan entrepreneurs develop and commercialize high-value, consumer–responsive food products. For more information, visit the MSU Product Center website or call 517-432-8750.

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