30 September 2019 /

How to pitch your product to retailers. Learnings from the Speciality & Fine Food Fair

Author: Lara Doherty

Earlier this month I attended Pitch Live at the Speciality & Fine Food Fair. The Pitch Panel, as you would expect, was strong including Selfridges UK and Sainsbury’s Future Brands. Along with their fellow Food Mentor judges, the Panel gave some top advice to the rising food and drink brands pitching to them their products. Top tips that I believe ultimately serve all brands in the sector well, regardless of where they are in their growth cycle, because they can easily be lost sight of when in the throes of developing, marketing or growing a product. 

Here’s what they said: 

Top tip 1 – Know your target customer and what they are prepared to pay 

The price point of any product needs to suit what the target customer is prepared to pay. It sounds obvious. However, from the three finalists I heard pitching to the Panel, two were quizzed heavily on how well they knew their customer, as the Panel believed their product was priced too high. 

Generating consideration and trial amongst the target customer is core to start-up success. Adrian Boswell, of Selfridges UK, advised that careful consideration of pack size is key to this. If a pack size is too big, not only is the price forced to be higher because of costs, but consumers are also less likely to be willing to pay and take a risk on it to trial it. 

Keeping trial front of mind ensures your pack size is optimised to build trial and sales. 

Top tip 2 – Make it easy for your target customer to understand how they use your product 

For your target customers to consider buying a product they don’t know, they need to fully understand what the product is, what it is used for and how it will fit in and benefit their life. 

Making a product all things to all occasions from the offset can prove disastrous, as it can paralyse a consumer into inaction and leave them confused, ultimately resulting in no sales. 

The Panel advised that, for launch, honing in on the most common usage occasion for the target consumer gives single minded clarity to a new brands messaging, packaging and comms. Once the product is more established, different usage occasions can then be communicated that will effectively grow the customer base and show the versatility of the product.

Top tip 3 – Help retailers to visualise where your product will sit on shelf 

Retail Buyers need to quickly and easily understand where a new product will sit on shelf and what category it fits into. 

Nicholas Moorley, from Sainsbury’s Future Brands, advised that if this is unclear, it’s much harder for Buyers to see how a new product will meet the needs of their retail customers, how it will stack up against their existing product range and how it will deliver them sales. 

Shelf space is prime real estate. Being clear on how a product fulfils a gap in the retailer’s current range and how it responds to consumer tastes is paramount. This can only be done if Retail Buyers can visualise and understand where the product will sit and who it will compete with. 

Top tip 4 – Retail isn’t always the right route for your product success 

Being listed in a leading supermarket isn’t always the golden or indeed right route to market for every new product. 

The Panel advised to not be blinded by believing that retail is the holy grail to success. Rather, concentrate on the unique value of your product. In doing so, other routes to market such as food service or white labelling could prove themselves to be better suited and more profitable.

Keeping at the fore the problem that your product responds to will better enable you to consider the viability and profitability of all your routes to market. 

The Speciality and Fine Food Fair never fails in providing me fresh perspective and this year was no exception. Thank you to Pitch Live and the expert panel of judges for re-iterating to me some top advice. Top advice that I have already raised to spark some exciting discussions with clients. Here’s to 2020.