How To Sell New Product to Retailers
The #1 thing that prohibits the growth of a product in retail is the lack of profitability or margin. I advise you to grow that margin as much as possible with your ingredient choices and packaging before approaching a retailer.
If you have a food product, the best place to start is Whole Foods as they are national and local stores will take your products if you walk in and speak with the manager. The one deciding factor that separates successful entrepreneurs with those who fade away is persistence.
The second place I would take your product is to local coffee shops (not Starbucks) as they get a lot of traffic and would take your product line on consignment at first. When you approach a new retailer, it’s always advisable to know your win/win scenario that you’d be willing to walk away with. Don’t go into the meetings with the idea that everyone will love your product and buy directly from you without testing it in their stores.
The final group of stores I would approach are locally owned nutrition stores, outdoor stores and bicycle stores. Anywhere where your customers are going to be actively spending money is where you’ll want your product to show up. By using local stores and distributing the product yourself at first, you’ll learn the feedback first hand about packaging, point of sale displays and sales.
Once you’ve seen 50+ local stores continue to carry your product lines for over a few months it is time to start reaching out to independent distributors and small chain stores. Working with the small chains of health grocery stores and niche retailers will allow you to perform the same healthy growth that you saw when working with the independent retailers locally, just on a larger scale. The one thing you want to avoid doing is growing too quickly as it will kill your profit and often devalue your product.
Finally when you are seeing strong sales and re-orders with your smaller chain stores it is time to speak to a broker who works directly with the big box retailers. Going through a broker who already has products in these retailers is often a “back-door” to getting shelf space when the buyers are not looking to bringing on a new product line. Typically these brokers work on commission, however you should interview each one like you were hiring them for a job position in your company. Too often bad brokers put a product in a catalog and do not actively work to sell it.