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 made it into some stores – maybe even Whole Foods! While rightly patting yourself on the back for the huge accomplishment, you suddenly feel even more stressed. One of the biggest misconceptions of the food world is that life is easy once you get accepted into the big chains. Nope. The larger challenge is getting customers to consistently buy your product off the shelf. For the same reasons you were able to convince the store buyer to replace an existing product with your product, there is a huge line of companies wanting your spot. The best (and in many cases, only) way to keep your space is to be a top seller in your category. The good news is you have some tools at your disposal including running promos, demos, or other events to build your in-store sales. But hurry, the clock is ticking until the buyer’s next review cycle!
For entrepreneurs, the most common metric to evaluate how your brand is performing is the number of units sold per store per week (“UPSPW”). This is done for each one of your SKUs – so Grandma’s Marinara Sauce can be moving 3 UPSPW, while the Pomodoro is moving 5 UPSPW in any given store. The key for you is to ensure you’re moving well compared to your category.
The rule of thumb is that aisles on the perimeter of the store (produce, meat, dairy, perishable, etc) have much higher sales velocities than the dry grocery aisles in the center of the store. Milk is typically on more people’s grocery shopping lists than sardines. Buyers typically compare product sales velocities to their respective category. So, as a pasta sauce, Grandma’s brand will typically only be judged against the rest of pasta sauce category, rather than against soda. Selling well will earn you larger and more valuable shelf space – or the opportunity to get more of your SKUs on the shelf. Not selling well puts your brand on the chopping block during the review cycle.
Getting sales data can sometimes be tricky. Some retailers (like Whole Foods) are very good at providing this data for their vendors. Others do not easily provide this information, or you might need to spend money on industry reports. Try and purchase whatever data you can afford; an analytical approach to your business is vital. When you’re larger, you’ll better be able to afford syndicated data from Nielsen or IRI who track across stores nationwide. However, for your small brand, the simplest bet is to try and build a great relationship with your buyers and see if they can let you know how you’re performing, and whether you’re meeting expectations for the category.
Every food brand, small and large, is doing whatever they can to improve their sales velocities. Larger brands with big budgets can afford TV commercials and giant displays in the store. It’s tough to compete with that, but small brands have a number of resources to help grow their sales. Next week we’ll talk about improving overall brand awareness. This week, let’s discuss tactics to execute within the store.
At the end of the day, your packaging will be the best selling point in any store. Think of how many times you bought a product purely because you thought the label was cool. Regularly revisit and invest in your packaging – this will be your best billboard.