Posted: Mon 19th Jan 2015
We first met Bolu Akindoyin at The Food Exchange event in March 2014. Founder of Love Chin Chin, a company producing a West African sweet treat, at the time Bolu had the product and was about to start developing the packaging. Fast forward to December 2014 and she was being stocked in Tesco stores across the UK and Ireland. It came on the back of persistence and having the right product, at the right time.
'We spent a lot of time tracking down the World Foods Buyer at Tesco with many phone calls and emails and were finally asked to send samples and pricing. We hand-delivered a well presented package of samples along with a presentation to the Buyer at Head Office in mid-June 2014.
The products were professionally packaged and branded but they were prototypes in that only 60 versions were created but we did stress our ability to be able to produce at mass.
After following up, the Buyer told us they were conducting a Range Review within World Foods and in 4 weeks' time we would know more. It turned out we were just in time to ride an important wave in the planning cycle as they were preparing to launch a West African range of products across the World Foods real estate in December 2014.
We met the Buyer at their merchandise centre to discuss roll out, ability to manufacture and deliver as well as many other terms and conditions required to be a supplier to Tesco. Initially Tesco were only going to take two flavours but during the meeting they decided to take all four. There was a series of meetings after that to fine tune Love Chin Chin's place in the range.
We're now stocked in 67 UK stores and 30 Ireland stores (mixture of Superstores, Extras, Metros and Express stores) and we've managed to fine tune our operational and manufacturing capabilities to meet the Tesco order and satisfy our other customers.
Now the product is bedding into stores, we're planning in-store tastings and retail activity as part of a joint approach across the West African range of new products. We're also driving awareness and engagement across social media, PR and food festivals.
When it comes to my top tips for selling to the big retailers, I would say:
Understand their "world". As a food supplier it's up to us to show the Buyer the customer, the size of the market opportunity and why this will be successful. They expect you to be knowledgeable about your product, audience, and their category.
Never go into a meeting assuming they've spent time researching you or reading the material you've sent them in any detail.
Try and save your "powder" until you know you're close to being able to deliver at scale as they don't have time for nice conversations.
The experience has been a very sobering but exciting one and the journey is only just beginning for the Love Chin Chin brand!
Details coming soon for the 2015 Food Exchange!