Creating a Successful Food & Beverage Sales Pitch

Pitching the Retail Buyer & Getting From Kitchen to Cash Faster!

Eco-BeeCo innovative sugar free sweetner
Foodpreneur client Eco-BeeCo gets on the shelf with new sugar-free sweetner that uses a taste of honey. Eco-BeeCo

All food entrepreneurs have the same journey to success.

The journey is 3 steps and they are big steps:

  • Getting Out of the Kitchen.
  • Getting on the Retail Shelf.
  • Getting on the Consumers Plate. (The plate is a metaphor for the marketing terms of Trial and Repeat Purchase)

Food Entrepreneurs often start in the kitchen because that is where you exhibit culinary creativeness.

Before you know it, your new retail food business will need to get its product Out of the Kitchen and on the Retail Shelf.

Getting on the Shelf can be the most frustrating step in the process because it has little to do with "the food"… this is New Product Launch. Surprisingly how your product tastes is only ONE factor in the buyer's decision making process. Let's face it, do you think the retail buyer believes food entrepreneurs will present new products that don't taste good?

In order to be successful in the launch of a product, you will first need to effectively pitch your product to a retail buyer. The retail buyer pitch is more than standard sales pitch and different from an investor elevator pitch. The retail buyer pitch is an expected component of the food entrepreneur's new product launch plan and requires significant planning prior to ever speaking with a prospective buyer. Retail buyers are very busy people and you have to assume you get one shot at the apple so to speak. So how do you ensure that your pitch will be successful?

An Outline for a Retail Buyer Pitch

Retail Buyer Pitch Get Ready! is a series of articles that are critical to the successful launch of a product. You will learn how to create your retail buyer sales pitch and understand the importance of each step and how to successfully develop each step so you get from kitchen to cash faster!

A retailer buyer sales pitch has 10 elements. Don't be set back by 10 elements since it is far easier to develop than you think. A number of the bullet points may only be one sentence.

  • Identifying your Retailer Prospects
  • Creating your brand's Product Positioning
  • Features / Benefits (what is in it for the consumer and then the retailer)
  • Frame Your Brand to other Brands
  • Determining the Retailer Action Desired
  • Identifying Your Target Audience
  • Market Trends that Support Your Case for Shelf Space
  • Competition, both Direct and Indirect
  • How Will You Support the Brand
  • What is the Buyer's Reason to Buy

Advice from a real Food Entrepreneur

Taste of Crete is a brand of Greek specialty foods and Greek prepared meals. I asked the founder Esther Luongo Psarakis, to give us advice on how she got to "yes" with the retailer buyer and addresses how to avoid "Deal Breakers" and the importance of a product's Suggested Retail Price (SRP).

According to Esther, "It is so important to know the right size for the retailer. When I first imported my Taste of Crete EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) they were packed 12 to a case. However with slotting and demos, I was giving away too much product and many smaller stores wanted just 6 per case so they could test the product more readily on the shelf, particularly with shelf stable products that may take longer to move. I changed the packaging to 6 per case and that improved sales."

General Guidelines

Rather than jump right into the 10 Step Retail Buyer Pitch Get Ready!, we need to review some preliminary work to be done.

Eshter says "Overall you must exhibit and air of confidence in your product succeeding in the market. You must be positive, self-confident and be able to fully address each of the 10 retail pitch elements in a manner that says "you know what you are talking about".

You Need More Than a Great Tasting Product

I tell every Foodpreneur Client you need to launch a product based on more than great taste to get on the shelf. Buyers look at many factors so let's explore critical elements and deal breakers. Advice from a woman food entrepreneur will focus on what you must address prior to entering the retail buyer's office with your PowerPoint sales presentation.

An Example of a Deal Breaker

A critical factor is understanding what the consumer needs AND also the needs of the retail buyer.

It does not matter how well the product tastes if the Suggested Retail Price (SRP) is well beyond the price points the buyer sets for the category OR if your gross margin (GM%) falls below the category threshold.

According to Esther, "Seemingly innocuous product attributes can result in an unsuccessful retail buyer pitch." For example, let's say your product is a gluten free cake that you want to sell in the in-store bakery.

You can't ship an individual cake so you have to create a master pack corrugated container to place the individual cake in. You decide that the most efficient size is 6 cakes per master shipper. Seems reasonable? How many cakes per week do you think can be sold at the retailer you are targeting? You say "well how am I supposed to know that?" Well, how about visiting a few stores and asking the bakery team leaders or managers? If the buyer knows his department only sells 2 cakes per week for the type of cake and the suggested retail price you are presenting, the buyer may reject the product because it will take 3 weeks to sell just one case. Is this making sense?

Keys to Success - Critical Retail Buyer Sales Pitch Elements

Your products - Yes they will evaluate how it tastes and looks. Since you "know the food" we assume it tastes great so let's move on.

Suggested Retail Price - More commonly referred to as SRP. This is the price of your product without any discounts or sales. The retail buyer has price points for each product category and you have to be within this range.

If you are too low of course you make less money AND if you are above the upper-end SRP, there is too much risk for the buyer to give you valuable shelf space.

Let's get some advice again from Taste of Crete on the SRP deal breaker.

"We learned first-hand the hard way the importance of having enough margin for a profitable line as well a reasonable SRP. We imported a line of lovely handcrafted jams as the Euro rose in strength against the dollar, thus squeezing our margins and forcing a higher price to the end consumer. Ultimately the line was not sustainable, especially in a recessionary climate where consumers have become more price-sensitive." according to Esther.

Do your homework and perform what I call Research by Driving Around (RbDA). Visit a handful of stores and look for products that are similar to yours or departments where you believe your product has the best chance for success.

Do a retail price audit of each brand and product that you believe the buyer will compare your new product against. If you are well below or above the range, you must reconsider how you are pricing and formulating your product so you get it back in line.

Gross Margin - Retail want to know the gross margin your product both in dollars and in percent.

When the buyer asks you "what is your gross margin" almost always they want the percentage number and you absolutely must know this number by heart.

How do you do your homework here? This is a bit more difficult and you can eventually find out an approximate Gross Margin % requirement or range by performing Research by Driving Around. Be persistent - you will eventually find a friendly manager or team leader that will give you some guidance.

Are Solving a Consumer Problem?

Why do consumers buy? You're a consumer so why do you buy? Why we buy is either to solve a problem and/or to fulfill a need. 

Can you succinctly point to a problem or a need your product fulfills? IF you can't do this in one sentence, STOP! This can be another deal breaker. One way to determine problems or needs is to look at consumer trends. This is not difficult when you consider virtually every media outlet is reporting on food daily.

My example is illustrating the strong gluten free trend in the food & beverage segment and you can easily research on Food & Beverage and specialty sites such as a Gluten-Free Cooking site. I suggest you Packaged Facts' Food Shopper Insights survey reveals opportunities for food entrepreneurs , and Barbara's Bakery focusing on product t growth by appealing to consumers with Celiacs to get a sense of the opportunity.

The increasing awareness of gluten intolerance and the subsequent need for tasty gluten free products is a great opportunity. If you are a baker and create a gluten free cake line and can make it taste pretty close to a wheat based dessert, you then have solved a problem for the growing population of consumers having some form of wheat intolerance, such as Celiac's disease.

So then here is how you are solving a consumer problem as well as a solving the buyers problem - [YOUR BRAND] gluten free desserts have a homemade look and taste that is the indulgent treat that customers with a gluten intolerance want! Additionally, ​this customer segment understands they need to pay a slight premium for gluten free foods.

Retail Buyer Pitch Get Ready!

Pitching your new product to a retail buyer can be a daunting and demanding task.

We will be helping you develop the 10 Steps Retail Buyer Pitch Get Ready! and get from Kitchen to Cash Fast!