Selling to Grocery Stores
Grocery Stores are an exciting, consistent, and large market for Upstart Farmers - but they're intimidating for first-timers to approach. Today, we'll look at what you should know as you start selling to the grocery store market.
Want more about grocers?
Download the Grocery Grower's Packet now for detailed approaches, value points, tactics, and an introduction to compliance work.
In this post...
- Who to talk to
- How to determine grocery store demand
- Best practices and common tactics
- Proper account management
- Who's doing it right
Know Who You're Dealing With
Before interacting with the store, you need to know who to ask for, who you'll be dealing with, and of course, who's important (which, actually, is everyone).
The Produce Manager
The Produce Manager is typically responsible for the produce aisle. They manage the products, product composition, pricing, operations, personnel, arrangements, aesthetics, and environment.
You will contact the PM initially and work with him regularly while selling at the grocery store. If the Produce Manager is sold on your product, he will be your biggest advocate.
The General Manager
The general manager runs the entire store and often has to sign off on new accounts. You will meet with the GM less frequently than the PM.
If you plan to supply all stores in a region, you will have to interact with regional managers. Consider the number of stores you will supply before beginning the sales process. Regional managers may be the people to contact first, before the PM, if you wish to sell to more than one store.
Even though they might not be the manager, everyone else in the store is important, too. Ron Mitchell, Local Greens CEO, advises:
“Everyone you meet in that store is a potential buyer. When you walk in, you have to treat [them] like they’ll be your buyers in a month, a year. Be friendly to everyone in the produce section. Inform them about your product - if they get asked, you want them to have a story about your farm. They’re a great marketing resource. Be sure to meet all the shifts, too.”
Give yourself at least three months to complete all of the necessary work to sell in a grocery store. Completing your compliance work will take, on average, 6-8 weeks, and internal approvals will take 3-5 weeks. Local Greens, in Berkeley, California, contacted Whole Foods six months before they produced a single product.
Best Practices and Tactics
Give them something they want
If you are willing to give the grocer something they want, then selling is not a problem. Ask: are they satisfied with their current greens and herbs providers? Do they want more local produce? Do they want to reduce spoilage and waste? Do they want a decent, reliable price?
Let the towers sell themselves
Take a tower with you or send photos as you make your pitch.
Remember that square footage matters
Produce managers are concerned about sales per square foot of produce space. The live sales display is comparatively large, so you must assure the manager that your product is worth the space. Customers get excited about live produce, which increases sales, benefiting both you and the grocer.
To increase your sales per square foot, remember that customers do not always want unusual varieties of greens and herbs. Touch base with the produce manager about what is and isn’t selling, and adjust accordingly.
Be clear about terms and requirements
Throughout the negotiation, make sure that all parties are clear on the terms of your agreement.
Know your key value points
Go into your meetings with a list of key value points for your use. These might include:
- Live sales reduce food waste by allowing customers to take exactly what they want, increasing profits for both the store and farmer.
- Letting customers harvest as they wish also reduces packaging waste.
- The live display is very interactive, improving the produce aisle experience and commanding a higher price.
Account Management is Vital
Once you've sold your product to the grocery store, you must continually follow up. Account management is highly important. Address any concerns or issues as quickly as possible.
Completing compliance paperwork is the next big step in the grocery sales process.
Who's Doing it Right?
Upstart Farmer Fresh With Edge in Rochester, MN.
We've only scratched the surface.
Need more detail, guidance, and clarification as you start selling to grocery stores?