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Get Your Product Into WinCo Foods

WinCo Foods isn’t just big on self-service — it’s giant. Inside the cavernous stores (average size is 95,000 sq. ft.) of this 24-hour, discount supermarket chain, customers shop for food in bulk, pay in cash, and bag their own groceries.

The company’s 95-plus stores in eight western states also feature pizza shops, bakeries, health and beauty products, and organic foods. WinCo Foods, formerly known as Waremart Foods, was renamed as a shortened version of “winning company.”

The name is also an acronym for its early states of operation, which include Washington, Idaho, Nevada, California, and Oregon. Founded in 1967, employees, past and present, own the company.

How to get your product into WinCo

  1. Understand you client: Before you spend a lot of time and money creating a product, you should know if anyone will want to buy it. Learn more about Market Research
  2. Learn if it’s protectable: Know if you can defend your product against cheap copies if it gets knocked off. Learn more about Copyright and Patent your product
  3. Test your product: Make sure that there’s a demand for your product and the customer understands what you are selling when it’s on the shelf and nobody is there to explain it. Learn more about Product Testing
  4. Perfect your pitch: Before you speak to decision makers, know your numbers, know your retailer and know your logistics in and out. Learn more about Pitching Your Product
  5. Don’t do it alone: If you haven’t been successful in retail before, a secret of success is that you can’t do it alone. Having great sales staff, customer support and marketing partners can take you from zero to success faster than if you tried on your own. Learn more about Retail Partnerships

How to get into WinCo Foods

Founded in 1967, WinCo Foods, Inc. is a privately held, majority employee-owned American supermarket chain based in Boise, Idaho with retail stores in Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington.

WinCo has a total of just over 18,000 employees company-wide, and operates distribution centers in: Woodburn, Oregon; Myrtle Creek, Oregon; Boise, Idaho; Phoenix, Arizona; Denton, Texas; and Modesto, California.

The company reduces operating expenses by purchasing directly from manufacturers and farmers; operating basic, no-frills stores; not accepting credit cards; and not providing bagging service.

On its supply chain policy, WinCo notes on its website that “WinCo is committed to conducting its business in a lawful and ethical manner. WinCo expects that its vendors also conduct themselves in such a manner, including complying with all laws involving trafficking and the enslavement of human beings (the “Act”).

WinCo requires all of its vendors to sign an agreement to the effect that they are aware of and agree to comply with the Act and similar laws and agree not to use any form of forced, indentured, bonded or prison labor and agree that they will not use any slave labor or permit any human trafficking in their supply chains.

WinCo does not currently conduct audits of its vendors to monitor their compliance with WinCo’s policy, but we have reserved the right to conduct, or to have an authorized third party conduct, audits to ensure compliance with applicable terms of any WinCo Foods’ agreements and to ensure compliance with the Act. Audits may include any facilities used by the vendor company or by its suppliers and subcontractors. The audit may occur with or without advance notice and shall be conducted at the vendor’s sole cost and expense.

Upon review of any unsatisfactory audit results, our vendors must take immediate corrective action in order to attain compliance. However, if violations of the Act are indicated, WinCo reserves the right to terminate its relationship with the vendor company, terminate any purchase order and/or return or revoke acceptance of affected merchandise at any time.”

As a vendor, you need a unique selling point. This is what strikes you different from other vendors. Your offerings are seen differently when you have uniqueness to your market offerings. If you don’t have one at the moment, look at what you offer in products and services and see how you can make it better. It could be a payment service, or the large varieties you present, or the extra-special freshness of what you offer. Just do something differently.

WinCo has a reputable brand and its retail offerings are quite large. It sells thousands of products and can be a profitable retail outlet. If your products are quite popular in the local market, it will be easy for you to easily pitch to this retailer. You have to bring your product to top quality to help you with the pitch of the product. More, you have to ensure that your products conform to regulatory standards.

Contact WinCo Buyer

Do not trust any “list” of buyers.

Typically retail buyers change either companies or positions every few years. This strategy helps retailers know that their buyers are not taking “kick-backs” and are selecting the very best product for the very best position each time.

Buyers are typically held to a very rigorous standard of sell-through volume that they must hit and because of this they are risk averse. Your job as a supplier or vendor is to convince them that the buyers going into the stores not only know about what you’re selling but are actively seeking the product in the store currently.

  • Step 1

    Contact WinCo Buyer

    Sometimes easier said than done, however you must get on WinCo’s radar.

    Call the WinCo’s corporate phone number and ask for the names of the buyer and assistant buyers in your category.

    Always leave voicemail with whomever the dispatch will connect you.

    Use that information to connect with them on LinkedIn, RangeMe and any other professional social platform.

    Ask your representative at your trade bureau to connect you to the WinCo buyers as they will potentially have a better history.

  • Step 2

    Get On WinCo’s Radar

    Use advertising, public relations and marketing to make your brand known to WinCo’s buyer through 3rd party websites & industry media sources.

    Be everywhere that they look, the key is to position your brand as the obvious choice when WinCo is looking to either refill a slot or create a new category.

    Latch on to the news of the day and any trend that will make your product fill that niche whether that be Non-GMO or Vegan Leather for example.

    Investing in your brand can only benefit your opportunities in the future. As being “top of mind” will have a ripple effect when you physically present your product at a WinCo buyers meeting or trade show in the future.

    Step 2

  • Step 3

    Use Hard Facts

    WinCo buyers typically got to their position by picking “winners” and know how to see through the fluff.

    Focus on the numbers, know your bottom dollar during a negotiation and how fees and chargebacks may cut into your position.

    Know that long term success may outweigh short term sales, however financing large purchase orders from WinCo when the net result is negative is not sustainable.

    Understand the playing field and the other brands that are in your space, what they are offering as promotion and pricing and how you can stand out against them.

    By knowing that each buyer at WinCo probably knows more than you do, take an active listening approach to sales and understand that no is a perfectly acceptable answer that may have saved you millions of dollars on the backend.

How to Submit a Product to WinCo

There are several ways to get a product placed in WinCo. However, most entrepreneurs only dream about getting their product distributed to major retailers, few actually do it. We have experienced a significant rise in interest since the show Shark Tank started airing on NBC. Mr. Checkout has had the pleasure of working with a few Shark Tank success stories such as KISStixx and 180 Party Cups which are now currently being distributed around the country to stores like Walmart, Target, 7-Eleven and more.

If you envision your product would be a good fit for WinCo, we have a few steps to help you get your product on their shelves.

Here are the 6 steps you need to take to have your product placed in WinCo.

1. Start with the right questions.) Before you try distributing your product to WinCo, you need to ask yourself a few basic questions. Do you need to build demand for your product, or is there already a demand for it? Do you know that WinCo would be interested in selling your product? If you can strike a deal with WinCo, can you handle the production volume? Do you want to sell directly to WinCo, or do you want to license your product to a manufacturer that will handle distribution?

2. Be prepared to profit.) Does your product offer enough of a profit margin for WinCo? Can you sell your product at a reasonable enough profit to cover the packaging, shipping, commissions, marketing and wholesale distribution? Check WinCo’s guidelines for other fees that you will have to build into the cost of your product in order for you to be able to turn enough of a profit to make the effort worth your while. If you work with a discount retailer, they will try to strip your profits down to zero in order to keep their prices as low as possible.

The typical breakdown of margins are: If a products costs $1 to produce, that product will retail for $4. That product that retails for $4 will wholesale for $2 to distributors and stores that purchase direct. Big box retailers like WinCo may offer to pay $1.25 to the manufacturer if the product costs $1 to produce. That is the typical profit margin.

3. Determine if WinCo is the right store for your product.) The relationship between you and WinCo starts with you browsing their store for competing products. If WinCo already has a similar product, it is going to be very difficult to get your product picked up. Spend some time at your local WinCo to see what kind of products they are selling, speak to the manager and see if he thinks your product will sell well in their store. Picture in which zone your product would best fit on the shelf and keep in mind that the most precious asset that these big box stores value are their shelf space. Keep this information in mind when you are preparing your presentation to WinCo.

If your company is minority or women owned, check WinCo’s website and see if they offer specific opportunities for those designations.

4. Pitch your product to WinCo.) Decide whether it will be you or a representative to present your product to WinCo. Your presentation depends heavily on your strengths as a businessperson as they will most likely ask financial questions and logistics questions.

It’s common for companies to hire a broker to pitch their product to WinCo, as it will be more likely that your product will make it to the next stage if the individual pitching your product has industry knowledge or a personal relationship with WinCo. The percentage of commission verses, however generally a broker will take around 5% to represent your product to WinCo.

We at Mr. Checkout have experience dealing with brokers and know that there are several retail brokers that have poor business practices that can potentially damage your brand. If you are seeking a legitimate WinCo broker, please give us a call for a recommendation. It could save you a huge headache and a lot of money.

5. Complete the required WinCo paperwork.) Often WinCo will have you go through an application process. However, before submitting the paperwork required by WinCo, you should contact a buyer at WinCo and let them know your intentions. Having a contact inside of the company will potentially move your application more smoothly through the process.

6. Anticipate the need for increased volume.) Having WinCo agree to stock your product will most likely mean a significant increase in volume. You should be prepared to ramp up your production and informing your manufacturer of this opportunity.

Having production, logistics and distribution to sync is not only difficult, it requires a significant amount of time invested in customer relations. Also, WinCo may have stipulations in the contract that may penalize you for delays in shipping and production. Have an attorney explain all contracts to you if you don’t understand the terms.

If you’re looking to sell your product to WinCo, be sure to thoroughly assess the marketplace, carefully prepare for production growth, and take full advantage of resources available to help you grow your business.

Submit Your Product Now

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