By Thomas Lock, Founder, British Snack Co.
If you’ve developed a retail product and are taking the next steps, approaching and getting ready to deal with the big supermarket chains can be a daunting prospect. This is understandable as the majority of British shoppers regularly buy from them either online or instore, so it’s hugely important for brand awareness, sales etc.
From my experience of launching four new snacks brands in the UK over the past few years and getting them into a number of major supermarkets, I’ve gained an understanding of the process. Hopefully, you can learn from my experience as a fellow entrepreneur, avoid my mistakes, and find success for your retail product.
Let’s look at what’s needed to get your brands onto the shelves in the major supermarkets:
- Knowing your market inside out
Most founders have done some research into their market, trends and competitors, but to be successful in the world of supermarket sales, you need to step up your game.
You need to understand your product category, inside out. You’ll need to know where your product will sit on the shelf, for example, who your competitors are in each supermarket chain and what they’re doing, whether the category is in growth or decline, and whether there are any market trends to be aware of.
Having this information front-of-mind going into a meeting with supermarket buyers will help convince them of the longevity of your product and brand, making them much more likely to engage with your business.
- Learning about the buyers
Buyers can be thought of on two levels: the business as a whole and buyers as individuals.
Start by finding out when the supermarket’s buying window is for each of your key sales periods. You may be surprised by how early supermarkets plan their seasonal product ranges. Summer sales are often planned the previous autumn, for example.
Next, turn your attention to the buyer as an individual. Try to get as much information about the buyer in advance: How long have they been in the role? Do they have any particular product expertise? What previous experience do they have? LinkedIn can be a good tool for this research and will help you develop a clear idea of who you’ll be selling to and what they’ll need/want to hear.
- Knowing your commercials
One of the most important things to have clear in your mind is your commercials. It will be difficult to negotiate a good deal without all the key financial and logistics information in your head.
For example, you need to know your exact cost price, including delivery to the supermarket’s warehouse ‒ and remember, they may have more than one warehouse. You need to know the average margin the buyer would expect on the type of product you sell, and what impact this will have on the potential retail price.
If you get this stuff wrong, even a little, you could hamper your growth forecasts with a cost that’s too low, or price yourself out of consideration with a cost that’s too high. Pricing needs to reflect your sales strategy while considering the various demands and requirements each supermarket will place on you.
- Being realistic about when…
Getting into supermarkets can be a process that takes months or even years. Make sure you build this into your forecasts and cash flow. Expecting everything to happen quickly could leave you caught short of money, sinking your business before it even gets going.
- Planning ahead for promotions
Promotions are a great way to gain new customers and boost sales. Supermarkets also tend to expect you to fund promotions several times a year and may charge fees for running the promotions or listing the products.
If you can get ahead of these expectations by planning your own promotions throughout the year, you can factor these promotions into your financials and present them to supermarket buyers fully-formed. This will make your brand a more attractive proposition and ensure you generate the profit you need to meet your projections.
- Having a strong listing rationale to present
Buyers are approached on a daily basis by companies who wish to trade with them, and you need to stand out from the crowd, especially in saturated markets. As such, you need to be able to articulate clearly why the buyer should list your product over potentially hundreds of other products, and why consumers will pick your product over the competition.
Much of this will be based on your competitor and market research. If you can show clear USPs that capitalize on a growing trend and which no other brands are even considering, you’ll have a very strong listing argument. For example, my business, AP Brands, offers snacks without additives, most of which are also vegan. This capitalizes on the healthy, vegan trend as well as the growth in the snacks market, providing clear USPs and a strong listing argument.
- Being patient and persistent
A ‘no’ isn’t necessarily forever, so don’t give up. If a buyer isn’t interested in your products now, it doesn’t mean they won’t be six months down the line. Trends change, buying habits change, and buyers can change. Ask for feedback from buyers (both positive and negative), keep an eye on shifts in the market, and, when things change, contact the buyer again.
As entrepreneurs we know that achieving success, particularly with the large supermarkets is going to take persistence and patient hard work. However, with good products it will be worth all the hard graft. I look forward to your success.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Thomas Lock is the founder and Managing Director of British Snack Co. (previously Awfully Posh (AP) Brands), a FMCG snacks company. Referred to by the Daily Telegraph as “the man who made pork scratchings posh”, Tom launched his pork scratching brand, Awfully Posh, in 2013. He soon launched a further three snacks brands, The British Crisp Co., The British Popcorn Co., and Create A Crisp, selling a total of over 5 million bags to date. British Snack Co. products are now stocked in supermarket giants such as ASDA, Tesco, Waitrose, Amazon & Wholefoods Market.