Secret Sauce: 10 Tips for Getting Your Product into Whole Foods is a guest series by the founders of Bandar Foods. Follow along as Dan and Lalit share their tips and tricks for starting and growing a specialty food company.
Congratulations! You’ve made it this far. Let’s just start finally selling, shall we?! Put on Ricky Rozay and go hustle.
By this point you should have a list of first stores where you plan to first sell Grandma’s Sauce (Chapter Four). The easiest targets will be the independently owned small specialty shops in your neighborhood. Go now and try. Ask to speak to the manager and show off your goods. Get her to taste the sauce and explain why they should bring in your product. This will be good practice for when you try for larger chains and need to put together a more formal pitch/presentation.
What Makes a Good Sales Pitch?
At minimum, you should bring:
- samples for a buyer to try;
- a list of your products and specs including SKU numbers, barcodes, ingredients, etc. (also known as a “sell sheet”), and;
- pricing and distribution options. Some retailers appreciate more information, others just want to try the samples.
Every buyer is different, so be the best salesperson you can be and read the various personalities and tailor your pitches accordingly.
At the end of the day, retailers simply care about making money – which means inventory turning over as quickly as possible. Since markets have limited shelf space, managers constantly optimize their grocery sets so every inch generates maximum revenue. Assume that every new product displaces another. Your challenge is convincing the retailer they will earn more money with your product than what they are currently generating. Some strategies:
- A Better Replacement: Since the arrival of your product likely means the departure of another, think through what makes yours a superior option and build that into the pitch. Think of objective attributes or certifications, and not subjective opinions. For example, Grandma’s Sauce is the only certified organic pasta sauce available under $5 is a better pitch than Grandma’s Sauce is the best tasting (even if it’s true, it’s harder to prove).
- On Trend: Assume that any grocery buyer is well aware of larger food trends (better-for-you, gluten free, etc.) and knows which of these trends their customer base is seeking. Use your pitch to explain why your product is on trend, rather than trying to teach a buyer about the larger trends. For example, mention that Grandma’s Sauce is gluten free; no need to bring up the stats about gluten allergies across the US.
- Local Customer Base: Mention all the local press you’ve received, or the number of social media followers, or the types of marketing events you put on in locally. Convince the buyer there is a willing audience already excited to start buying your product.
- Promotions and Sales: What will you do to help your product sell quickly? What types of discounts will you offer? Are you willing to sample the product in-store or participate in retailer marketing events? We’ll go through this next week.
- Data in Other Stores: Once you’re in a few stores, you will do everything you can to ensure your product sells well (we’ll discuss next week). This strong past performance in other stores will be the most valuable asset in your new sales pitches moving forward. If a retailer sees you kicking butt elsewhere, they will be more likely to take you on than without any indication of your success.
What About Whole Foods?
So this series is about getting into Whole Foods, right? Here is info specifically for ***Whole Foods***:
The most standard way to introduce your product is to submit to any or all of their eleven regions during the annual review cycle for your product category (i.e. pasta sauces). First, check the information onthis link>they made for potential suppliers. From there, you should reach out to the individual regions and introduce yourself. Ask for their category review schedule (so you should know when you should submit) as well as their new item forms and presentation templates. Please note that Whole Foods receives a LOT of new product submissions, so it’s probably best to follow their forms and templates to make review easier.
Another option includes trying to find a Whole Foods Regional Forager for your local region. This is an employee of Whole Foods who seeks out local companies that their customers might enjoy. Not all regions have a Forager, but we’ve been told that they can sometimes shepherd smaller companies through the submission process.
Another option is to find a broker (as discussed in Chapter 5) with deep ties to Whole Foods who can help with the process and potentially give you a better chance to get noticed during review periods.
Another option is to simply take your products to your local Whole Foods store and ask to show the store manager. We cannot say if the manager would be willing to try the products in her single store, but she could potentially help advocate for your products in a regional review if she likes them enough.
***The clear caveat is that we do not work for, nor speak on behalf of Whole Foods Market. We do not have any access to the internal workings of the retailer. The advice provided here is solely based upon our experience with getting our products into Whole Foods, as well as speaking to other entrepreneurs about their experiences. As they say in the infomercials, results may vary.***
Still two more chapters to go. Getting in is the easy part…Staying on shelf and building a brand is the real challenge.