Food entrepreneurs believe passionately in their products (why else would they invest all the blood, sweat and tears?) and feel strongly that consumers will too—if only they could score retail shelf space. All too often, they hit wall after wall when trying to get grocery buyers’ attention, put samples in their hands and convince buyers to give them a shot.
An entrepreneur might call, email and stop by the store, but get little in the way of a response. Or, if they manage to land a meeting, they may hear a firm “no” before even finishing their pitch. Alternatively, a meeting might seem to go OK, but then they’re left waiting for weeks, maybe months, to hear an answer. To call this frustrating is an understatement.
While it might sound like grocery buyers are disinterested, flaky or even mean people, that’s typically not the case at all. In reality, they have a very tough job that pulls them in multiple directions at once. Most also have a keen sense of “buyer’s intuition,” meaning they can sense pretty quickly whether a product will not only sell well but also add something different to their product mix that’ll elevate their entire department. So, when buyers don’t see certain qualities in new food products and companies, they quickly move on to their next task.
But just because a product gets rejected by a retailer—or even 10 retailers—doesn’t always mean it’s a lost cause. In fact, the issue may not be with the item or the brand at all. The real problem is often how, when, where or to whom the product was pitched—or all of the above.
Our latest podcast guest knows this firsthand. Alli Ball was a buyer for Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco for many years before launching her own consulting business. Now, through her Retail Ready course and Food Biz Wiz podcast, she uses her experience to help producers get products on shelf by educating them on what buyers really want to see.
As Alli explains, buyers are numbers people, with product assortments to manage and sales targets to hit. They also speak a very specific language when discussing all this stuff. So, to have the best shot at scoring face time, getting them to taste a product and convincing them to carry it, entrepreneurs should learn how to properly approach, pitch and follow up with buyers.
And now, our roundup of the best food and beverage finance news, events and resources from around the web…
Business Model Insights
- Investing in the Future of Food: Cultivating a healthy work culture means knowing when to say good-bye (FoodNavigator-USA) New entrepreneurs may think they can use all the help they can get, but hiring the wrong staff short-term can be more detrimental than waiting for the right fit.
- 15 Big Legal Mistakes Made by Startups (Forbes)
- Why having a killer idea, product & passion isn’t enough for long term success (FoodNavigator-USA)
- Why early money is becoming harder to come by (New Hope Network) Angel investors are becoming inundated with inquiries, making it harder for natural products brands to secure early money. But it’s still possible.
- 7 Helpful Financing Options for LGBTQ+ Entrepreneurs (Entrepreneur)
- Telltale Signs That You Shouldn’t Be Raising Venture Capital (Entrepreneur)
- Product certifications not a certainty of legal compliance (Natural Products INSIDER) “Pay for paper” certifications in the natural products industry meet a consumer—not regulatory—demand.
- Varied approach best when working with influencers (Natural Products INSIDER)
- In Our Age of Distrust, Food and Beverage Industry Fares Better Than Most (Food Industry Executive)
- 5 ingredients that will impact the industry in 2020 (Food Dive) Fonio, collagen, pea protein, cacao fruit and lupini beans are poised to make a difference in product launches, nutritional content and consumers’ eating habits.
- The macro forces driving natural products industry trends today and tomorrow (New Hope Network)
- Most consumers don’t link diet & climate, but sustainability marketing could boost plant-based sales (FoodNavigator-USA)
Farming and AgTech
- Two States Are Leading a Cover Crop Revival (Civil Eats) Farmers in Maryland and Iowa are investing in crops that improve water quality, soil health, and build resiliency in the face of climate change.
- Analyzing 2019’s wild weather year: could technology have helped? (AgFunder News)
- Coronavirus Outbreak Takes A Toll on Recovering Milk Prices (Wisconsin Public Radio)
- Dairy farmers agree to buy ‘substantial’ part of Dean Foods (CNN Business) Following the November 2019 bankruptcy filing of the nation’s largest milk processor, Dairy Farmers of America will keep Dean Foods afloat.
- Niman Ranch’s GM talks life post-acquisition, livestock tech, and building a new supply chain (AgFunder News)
- Regenerative Agriculture Startup Cooks Venture Raises $4 Million To Expand National Distribution (Forbes)
- American Food Sure Summit – $, 3/2 – 3/3 in Chicago, IL
- PACK EXPO East – $, 3/3 – 3/5 in Philadelphia, PA
- Expo West 2020 (New Hope Network) – $, 3/3-3/7 in Anaheim, CA
- Midwest Foodservice Expo – $, 3/9 – 3/11 in Milwaukee, WI
- National Good Food Network Conference 2020 (Wallace Center) – $, 3/10 – 3/13 in New Orleans, LA
- SNAXPO20 – $, 3/22 – 3/24 in Charlotte, NC
- Edible-Alpha® Live! – $, 4/1 in Madison, WI
- SupplySide East – $, 4/21 – 4/22 in Secaucus, NJ
- Food Safety Summit – $, 5/4 – 5/7 in Rosemont, IL
- SAVOR™: An American Craft Beer & Food Experience – $, 5/15 in Washington, DC