- Richard Horwell, MD of Brand Relations, shares his advice on getting to market
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Launching a new food or drink brand onto the market can very much depend on your budget, this is where a business plan is very important. So many times I have seen entrepreneurs spend all their budget on an exhibition, based on promises from the sales team of big-name buyers attending. It, however, doesn’t happen like that these days, unfortunately, few buyers have the time to visit exhibitions, so if you have a limited budget then I suggest you try to target the buyers directly.
In my experience of launching over 80 brands in the UK, the best strategy is to aim for the premium retailers like Whole Foods, Planet Organic, Selfridges. These are the benchmarks for other retailers, if you can get listed here and have the opportunity to sample in store then this is a far better investment than an exhibition. Once you are established in these stores and the brand becomes better known then you can aim for bigger retailers and supermarkets. The worst possible strategy is to go straight into a mainstream supermarket and fail because your brand is unknown, once this happens you have no chance of going back to the premium retailers, as they won’t be interested and your brand will be dead.
Wholesalers in the UK do NOT sell, they are mostly there for fulfilment, it is up to the brand owner to sell to their clients, unfortunately with GDPR restricting information the wholesalers will not share their databases, but don’t let that deter you, the buyer should be able to give you some direction and ideas as it is in their interest your brand sells. My favourite expression is to look for low hanging fruit, don’t just set your sites on a Waitrose or Whole Foods from day one, look for buyers that understand your brand and are prepared to give you a chance. This gives confidence to the rest of the market that there is a demand, needless to say, you need to be sure they are the right positioning within your target audience, as in the early days smaller is better and you can get some genuine feedback to help you on your journey.
Getting noticed in this market is VERY hard, don’t be put off easily, if a buyer doesn’t respond it doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t interested, most of them are overworked and inundated with new products. So, don’t pester them, maybe an email followed by a phone call, then leave for a week or so and try again, they will come back to you and please don’t just send them samples if they haven’t requested them, it is more likely to put them off rather than encourage a response. Its a tough road with a huge amount of competition, but the rewards are there and I do love this industry. So persevere as no entrepreneur got rich by luck, it takes hard work and the belief that you can and will be a success!