Specialty food buyers offer tips and insights for selling your food product

Buyers of Meijer, Hiller’s Markets, Cherry Capital Foods and Kroger share tips and insight for how it works to have your product in their stores.

You want to see your food product on the shelves or in the refrigerator of a local store, but what should you expect or how do you get in? During a panel discussion at the Making It In Michigan conference, buyers from Hillers, Meijer, Cherry Capital Foods and Kroger gave insights and tips for selling wholesale.

Cherry Capital Foods is a distributor to grocery stores like Kroger, Hiller’s Markets, Westborn Markets and Plum Markets. As a distributer, they will take the price that they purchased your product at and mark it up 25-35 percent to sell to these stores.

Meijer only purchases their food products from their designated distributors whose mark-ups range from 20-40 percent for refrigerated and frozen items and a 7-20 percent mark-up on shelf stable items. Sometimes, Meijer tests food products in one store and, based on their success, they invite them to have their product in other locations. Meijer has a special arrangement with the MSU Product Center that enables MSU Product Center clients to have their products considered for categories in Meijer’s stores outside of their general process that other processors participate in. Outside of this, Meijer has a centralized buying office that reviews categories at certain times of the year. Call the headquarters to identify the buyer and when that category is reviewed to understand when to request an appointment and tasting for your product.

Once a product is in their store, Kroger gives a new product a 6-9 month window of sales and then reviews its sales to decide whether to keep buying that product. Find out what the window of time is for the stores you are considering.

Hiller’s Markets recommends that new vendors be prepared to help pay for sales flyers either by a one-time flat fee or discounted case costs. New vendors should also be prepared to do demonstrations within the stores. This will help introduce the product to the customers at store level and hopefully improve product sales. As Hiller’s considers which products to accept, they look at trends to follow and what makes sense for their customer demographics based on their individual store locations. They see international convenience food really taking off.

Regardless of where you sell your product, here are some common pointers for you to consider:

  • Call the company headquarters to identify the buyer and make an appointment to meet them.
  • Refrigerated or frozen products will have their delivery temperature checked at the receiving area to see if it is at the required temperature before receiving it.
  • Multiple flavors, called SKU’s, are important if you are going into a category that is saturated such as jams, BBQ sauces, rubs and spices.
  • Pricing and marketing is critical to your success within a store so plan on giving temporary price reductions (called TPR) and multiple sampling events to build product sales in the stores.

The MSU Product Center, in partnership with Michigan State University Extension, provides business counseling for product development and marketing strategies that will help Michigan entrepreneurs 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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