Entrepreneurs, startups, and small businesses in food retail face an enormous obstacle: established brand giants. Of course, that’s a challenge faced by small businesses in any market, but it tends to be a larger obstacle for niche food brands. A specialty product needs to target or convert a specific audience, but finding and convincing them in a sea of other options is no small task.

The very personal concern about what one eats and drinks serves as an extremely powerful motivator to choose the best products on the market. Over time, as different trends and health information come to light, people are looking for products to potentially replace the brand giant they grew up with or that are most familiar to them. This is a great foothold for new and niche brands to make their pitch.

  1. Identify and strengthen your base.
  • The first step is, of course, the most crucial. There is a perfect customer out there for your brand. You need to find them and speak directly to them. Crafting a message that these people connect with is paramount to everything else in the beginning – it is also tricky as these folks will sniff out insincerity faster than anyone.
  • Once you win them over though, you will have devotees who can help you carry your message forward to the masses. If you were a rock band, this is the group that would come out on weeknights to hear you play at a dive bar when you are just starting out; which means they’ll also hold you accountable for staying true to your mission down the road. Unlike a band, however, they will not turn on you when you get popular or go through a strange electronic phase, as long as you keep making the products they first fell in love with.
  • Never take these folks for granted, reward them for their loyalty, and keep them engaged. The loyalists will do marketing for you, they’ll ask why your brand isn’t carried at their local retailer, they’ll tell all their like-minded friends about your products, and that will get you to the next level.
  1. Spend smart.
  • Once you’ve gained enough traction, solidified your message, and worked out the kinks in your operations and packaging, you’re ready to spread your wings into a broader base with larger retailers. A knowledgeable food broker becomes crucial at this step – they have the insight and connections you need to get in front of these customers, they also have the retail and sales support to make sure the plan is executed effectively.
  • What you will encounter at this stage are shelf placement fees. Also known as slotting, this is the fee charged for the effort that goes into placing your products on the shelf. Chain retailers typically look at this as a per store fee, and they typically have more stores, meaning bigger fees. Your broker will help to organize this transaction into the most beneficial deal for both sides, but it will mean an outlay of money and/or product no matter what.
  • The thing to keep in mind is that gaining shelf placement is not the end goal. Once on the shelf you will be competing in a larger pond with bigger fish, and if you’ve spent all of your available money on slotting, you won’t have anything left for in-store advertising, demos, coupons, spoils, or additional product expansion! It is crucial that you do not drop everything into slotting fees and leave nothing to support the brand with once it is on the shelf. Your broker will help you to navigate these waters and lend their experience to your brand, so that your go-to-market strategy addresses all factors.
  1. Evangelize.
  • Once your plan has been thoughtfully laid out and enacted, you must spread the word far and wide. Again, this is where your core customers can help, so get them talking. Engage on social media with targeted digital marketing campaigns, advertise with your retailer, send coupons to your broker’s retail team to get product into the hands of new customers wherever you have distribution.
  • Creating a buzz around your brand is no easy task, sustaining it requires tons of effort in marketing and logistics. Your broker will ensure that your product is on the shelves, in the correct place, at the right price, so that you can focus on what you do best, spreading your story.

No one should kid themselves into thinking it will only take 3 steps to create a successful brand. Like brands of every size, you’ll need to work out all the manufacturing, packaging, and delivery concerns – as well as create an air-tight digital media presence. However, if you can execute these three steps fully it will be possible to sustain growth in the CPG industry among the established brand giants.

At Impact Group we work with brands of every size, utilizing tools and assets that go far beyond basic broker services. Take a look at our proprietary retail, data insights, and CMS systems – as well as our Emerging Brands, eCommerce, Marketing, and Sourcing Solutions. We are a national brokerage, large enough to have a place at the table, yet organized for streamlined efficiency and specialization to optimize growth for any client.