As a food start-up business you probably see securing a listing with a national retailer or distributor, as the ultimate goal down the line. However, before even trying to do that you need to collect as much sales data as possible and prove that there is a demand for your product. Every big retailer will require customer validation as its crucial to their bottom line.
So how do you bridge that gap and prove to retailers that there’s a demand for your product if you are just starting out? Here are a few tips on where and how to achieve early product validation.
Through Your own website
If you have a food business you definitely have a website already, so why not to leverage that. Selling products through your own website comes with additional benefits besides revenue. Firstly, selling directly is cost effective – besides delivery, there aren’t any margins you have to account for. Secondly, you can begin to collect sales data from the very first sale. Even if it’s simply your customers email address or what they bought. It helps you indicate your more popular products and provides you with a way to re-target them at a later date through email marketing, newsletters or simply to send a thank you note.
Website development platforms such as Wix and WordPress have multiple ways on how to integrate e-commerce on your website, whether it be a free plugin or a paid service such as Shopify or WooCommerce. It doesn’t necessarily take much technical skill either to set up your own e-commerce. It’s a great way to provide website visitors a direct call to action, promote your product and get some direct sales. That way, the only concern you should have is how to ensure there is enough traffic to your website. You’re more likely to be discovered on social media as opposed to a search engine so make sure your social media bio’s link back to your website to drive as much traffic as possible.
Through Pop ups & Collaborations
A pop up stall could be exactly what you need to raise awareness as well as get your target audience interacting with your brand. A simple tasting session could be enough to convert a customer for life.
Platforms such as Appear here allow you to book up short term pop-up shops & unique spaces across the UK. The platform has a huge variety of exclusive spaces available to rent by day, week or month. Think about your target market and where it’s most likely you will be able to catch their attention.
If a pop up is a bit above your budget on your own – consider collaboration. There are always plenty of other food brands starting out and probably even considering different ways how to scale their sales and market their product. Do some research on other start-ups and find out who has a similar target market or complimentary products to yours. Don’t be shy to reach out and suggest an idea to collaboratively set up a pop-up.
Through Independent and corner shops
Draw up a list of small independent shops and corner shops surrounding your target locations and work out which ones you feel align with your target market.
If you can, contact them before hand to set up a meeting, either by email, calling or a quick pop-in. Identify who is a key decision maker in a shop. This saves time and ultimately makes sure that whoever you meet will be aware of your intentions and has the power to act upon it.
Before you step into the meeting, make sure you know your sales pitch. You should be able to explain why your product suits their store, how their customer base aligns with your target market, and how you will be growing their sales in a particular category. Showcase and sample the product and make sure your commercial deck design is sleek.
Don’t forget to send a follow up email in few days in case you don’t hear from them first.
Through Online Marketplaces
There are alternative ways to validate your product and secure repeat orders that won’t necessarily require huge quantities of stock and will have an impact on your business fairly quickly. There are many platforms available online where you can list your product, as long as you can meet their criteria & provide high quality pictures.
Some of the most startup friendly e-commerce platforms are Yumbles, BoroughBox, Sourced Market, Craved, Tabl. These are great ways to get your product discovered by much larger audiences. Utilising these platforms comes with added benefits as well. They provide low cost marketing, free product promotion and added benefits to your websites SEO.
Through Sales Agents
There are also number of agents in the food industry that can help you to obtain more listings and increase your sales. Organisations such as The Artisan Food Club, Fabulous Food Trading Post , Windfall Brands can increase your brands reach and tap into markets that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
In the long run, not only do these alternative routes to market help you validate your product, they also allow you grow your sales. These methods contribute to valuable sales data which in turn, helps to validate your business model and helps to evolve the sustainability of your supply chain as you gradually grow.
Don’t forget to get your product, packaging and overall business strategy in order before you do begin to scale your sales. If you feel you need help, Cinnamon Bridge are a team of experts and entrepreneurs who could help to take your food business to the next level. Contact us and let’s have a chat!