How do I get my new food product on grocery store shelves?

Sell sheets are an essential tool in marketing your product.

New food manufacturers sometimes assume that a food distributor will find retail outlets for their food product. In reality, a distributor only gets your product from your pick-up point to its destination. In fact, distributors often like to have a product at a certain level of sales before they will pick it up. To find and keep retail outlets for your product, you need a personal touch. It is up to you to sell your product and take care of it on the shelf.

Before you approach the store buyer, create a product “sell sheet”. Ideally, it should contain an attractive, full-color picture of the product and a short description on the front, as well as a background piece, ingredients and nutrition facts on the back. Nutrition facts aren’t required until you sell 100,000 units in a year, but some retailers will require them because consumers want to see how much fat, sodium and calories there are in a product. 

You want to list the product’s most attractive features and benefits. Use the sell sheet to tell your story and highlight key features like low-sodium or fresh tasting. A couple of testimonials can be a powerful tool to show buyers that your product is desirable. Make it look professional, neat and simple. Make sure your contact information is plainly visible. 

On a separate handout called a pricing sheet, provide the case quantity, pricing per case, and contact information for ordering the product. Also include the product’s SKU, UPC or item number when you have it. Will you have order minimums? How will you be delivering? Some retailers do like to work through a distributor and will refer you that way. You can use your pricing sheet as an order form as well.

Try to anticipate questions you think might come up and answer them on your sell sheet. You’ll be closer to getting an order because the buyer won’t have to clarify anything with you. Don’t forget to take samples, pens and a calculator to create a positive, professional impression!

The MSU Product Center, in partnership with Michigan State University Extension, provides business counseling for product development, packaging and marketing strategies that will help Michigan entrepreneurs commercialize high-value, consumer–responsive food, value-added agriculture, and natural resource products. For more information, visit the MSU Product Center website or call 517-432-8750.

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