What’s the key to winning over a supermarket buyer with your produce? In this extract from our newly-published Cook Wrap Sell, author Bruce McMichael offers his tips for getting your produce on the shelves.
Before approaching any supermarket, make sure you do thorough market research. Buyers representing your potential client will expect you to know plenty about the company and its existing products. They will also expect you to know every facet of your own business – from where ingredients are sourced and production methods, to your accounts and target market.
Talk to experts in your regional food group. They’ve seen it all before. They can also put you in touch with other local producers who have experience of selling into supermarkets. Consider your costs and pricing policy carefully. You may be expected to contribute to marketing; for example, part funding special offers, two-for-one offers and simple price reductions.
If your ambition is to move on from supplying local clients to a supermarket, the buyers will want to be absolutely sure that, if necessary, you can supply tens, maybe hundreds of shops with your product at a consistently high standard, and deliveries will be made on time, that your supply chain is robust and that you have the necessary infrastructure and support in place. Your products will need barcodes and you should be able to accept and respond to orders via email.
Be prepared for honest appraisal of your product, its tastes and flavour, and packaging. It’s rare that a supermarket will take your product on first sight. They might ask for changes to packaging, so that your product stands out on crowded shelves.
Pitch tips for meeting supermarket buyers
Here are some top tips for going into that all-important pitch meeting.
1. Be clear and concise. What are you offering? What do you want? Make sure your focus is clear.
2. Pitch in layman’s terms. Not that supermarket buyers are laymen. But you have to remember that, for all their expertise, no one can be as well acquainted with your product as you. Don’t treat them like idiots, but don’t be overly technical – remember that they must always consider the customer’s point of view, and customers are rarely persuaded by technical benefits over practical benefits.
3. Include robust sales forecasts and profit projections. Your pitch will be redundant without them. Remain ambitious, but – and this is fundamental – realistic.
4. Know your finances from top to bottom. Nothing annoys buyers more than a sloppy grasp of the numbers.
5. Practice makes perfect: prepare with family and friends who can offer honest, critical feedback in advance.
6. Find out how much time you have for your presentation, and practise to that timescale. Don’t rush. Pace yourself.
7. Are you unnecessarily repeating yourself, or giving inconsequential information? Don’t!
8. If you’ve already sold your product to other parties, let the panel know.
9. Laptops, screens and similar equipment may be available, but rehearse your presentation without using them in case they aren’t – or in case they stop working halfway through. Use props, distribute handouts, but make sure they actually add something to your pitch.
10.Try not to fidget. It’s a common display of nerves and will distract your audience.
11. Don’t forget to smile. It may be daunting, but pitching should also be fun in its own way.
Buy Cook Wrap Sell
Produced in partnership with Country Living Magazine, Cook Wrap Sell is a complete guide to starting, running and growing a home-based food business. It’s available as a downloadable ebook for £5 or a print book for £12.99.
About Bruce McMichael
Bruce has worked as a freelance writer, journalist and publisher for more than 20 years and is passionate about local food. He’s published and edited a local food magazine, Taste Shropshire, and as a regular user of local farmers’ markets, food fairs and festivals he has spoken with hundreds of individual local producers eager to share their experiences of working as a food entrepreneurs.
Photo credit: Rick