FreshSource, LLC Sales & Merchandising is proud to announce the recent hire of Dara Wood– Retail Field Merchandiser & Sales Representative for Northern California

“Dara comes to us highly recommended, with a fire and energy that will fit right in, here at FreshSource.  Coming from several years at Advantage, I am confident that her renewed passion for this business will really help us to continue our domination in the Central Valley,” stated Shawn Dagen, President of the Northern California Division of FreshSource, LLC.

Dara was with Advantage Solutions for 15 years where she learned the grocery business inside and out. She learned that this business is fluid and vast which allows room for changes and new ideas.

Recently Dara decided that a change was needed to keep things moving in the right direction for herself and family. Looking forward to meeting new clients and collaborating on new ideas to make the most success for each chain and gain trust for bigger projects.

Dara currently lives in the Central Valley with her husband Max of 22 years, son- Soren, 19 and daughter- Zoya, 16. They love to get to the beach as much as possible and love to travel home back east twice a year.

Dara is passionate about photography and amazing food! Dara husband Max, is really into Spartan racing, her son, Soren is presently working on what really makes him happy, and what he would like to do to start out on this big adventure called life, and her daughter, Zoya is working on getting into UC Santa Barbara for Marine Biology. Life for the Wood family is full of fun and amazing changes!

FreshSource, LLC Sales & Merchandising is proud to announce the recent hire of Nekeshia Neblett, as our In-House Sales Support Albertsons, Vons & Pavilions.

“Nekeshia brings a significant amount of administrative experience and knowledge with produce and grocery and is a great addition to the FreshSource team and support to Albertsons Corporate Office,” says Mike Casazza.

Nekeshia has over 20 years experience in customer service, she has worked for the Telephone company ATT, worked at the corporate office for Lexus and Toyota, and has worked for Souther California Edison, and a 911 dispatcher, and dispatcher for a boat towing company.

Nekeshia has been a Department Specialist for almost 2 years at the Albertsons office, starting out in grocery and produce deparment the last year. She has gained a ton of knowledge for the produce field with access to the in-house systems.

Nekeshia has a 19 year old daughter who is in school to be an Ultrasound Tech. She enjoys reading, online shopping, spending time with my family and working in the church shes’s attended since she was a small child.

She is truly excited to join the FreshSource Family. She will be working directly with both Shannon and Gerri in the Albertsons Office!

FreshSource, LLC Sales & Merchandising is proud to announce the recent addition to our family, Joseph Grana, as our new Retail Merchandising Manager for Arizona.

“We are very excited to have Joe join the FreshSource team in Arizona as Retail Merchandising Manager. Joe has over 10 years working as a merchandising specialist in the grocery industry with 20+ years of successful client development experience in contract sales. His dependability and dedication has earned him the reputation of being the one you can always call on to get the job done. With his effective communication and leadership skills, Joe has that special ability to make those around him better,” says Mike Casazza, President Southwestern Division.

Joseph was born and raised in California where he attended college in San Jose. He left San Jose early to pursue a career as a Professional golfer. Where he ended up spending over 20 years in the Golf Industry as a player, instructor and finally as the Director of Golf. Left the teaching industry once he married and started a family and moved to Phoenix AZ.

He then decided to switch gears and go into Sales. Joe’s children lived out of state, so he traveled often to see them. While working for a small owner / operator swimming pool builder, Joe continued to develop his sales/ communication skills, while maintaining his own schedule to fly to see his children.

In 2008, Joe started working part time as a Retail Specialist, for different companies in the retail industry. Joe joined Empire foods and later transferred to Premier Sales Solutions, as a full time retail / sales employee.

In Joe’s free time, he enjoys spending time with his two teenage kids and playing golf at his local club, where he maintains a single digit handicap.

The Real Deal: 3 Ways Food Companies Can Craft Compelling Brand Stories

When a customer puts your product in their shopping cart, they’re doing so for a few reasons.  They like your packaging, they respect the quality of your food, and most important, they trust your brand.  They trust that they’ll get the same delicious taste every time they buy, and they trust that your brand story, which reeled them in as a customer, is true.  However, if it comes to light that your origin story isn’t grounded in truth, the revelation can leave behind a bad aftertaste.

Always tell the truth

In today’s food market, the power of a compelling brand story almost overrides the appeal of the product.  People are more willing to support a company that funds a great cause or whose owners have a similar backstory to their own.

Take Mast Brothers Chocolate, for instance.  Rick and Michael Mast became the darlings of the craft chocolate world.  Their chocolate bars were packaged in sleek, aesthetically pleasing packaging, and they were sold to the public as two hard-working, bearded guys from Brooklyn who loved chocolate.  However, a 2015 exposé accused the Mast Brothers of lying about their product.  Their claim to fame was a “bean to bar” process that produced rich chocolate, but they allegedly started making their product by melting down industrial chocolate and adding flavoring.  The brothers denied the claims, but it created a firestorm of criticism and a cloud of mistrust continues to hang over their brand.

The public doesn’t like to be lied to.  It’s one thing to rebrand yourself to fit the image of your industry.  If you want to make a splash in the craft food scene, a beard can help.  But you shouldn’t choose an image that strays too far from who you really are, and you should avoid making hyperbolic claims that you can’t back up.  Don’t claim that you’re the best or the first or that you’ve never sought the help of experts.  In these cases, you’re practically baiting fact checkers to unearth the truth.

Make a great product

Behind every great story is a great product.  A strong brand story helps you build an initial relationship with your customer, and it motivates retailers to carry your brand.  However, once the buzz of the story wears off, you need to deliver.  Thus, it’s important that you never sacrifice the quality of your product for the story.

When you make something that the public craves, they’ll buy it from you directly and retailers will come knocking on your door.  An intriguing backstory helps, but the food matters most.

The creators behind nut butter company Wild Friends (Keeley Tillotson, Erika Welsh, and Tillotson’s father, Bruce) started their company as an organic alternative to mass-market brands that were high in sugar.  A huge part of their story was that they’d once appeared on Shark Tank and that both Tillotson and Welsh had dropped out of college to run their business.  But the ultimate draw to their product is how great it tastes.  Wild Friends is carried in retailers all across America, not for the backstory, but because customers love their nut butter.

A great product creates its own story and essentially sells itself.

Choose your words carefully

When promoting your brand, you may reach out to a public relations expert to help you craft a story that appeals emotionally to your target demographic.  These stories often require spinning the truth a bit, to differentiate you from your competitors, and position your brand as truly unique and worthy of attention.  However, be sure your story doesn’t stray too far from reality.

To ensure you stay in truthful territory, try to avoid using any of the following five words in your brand story:

Small-batch: This is a buzzword that’s synonymous with quality.  Immediately, small-batch signifies that everything you produce is made by a single person in a small kitchen, and that means every single unit meets your utmost standards.  This may have been true when you were selling bottles of homemade bitters to your friends.  But once you find an audience, an investor, and a retailer, production ramps up.  You may still use the same recipe, but you’re no longer producing a small-batch product.  Avoid the word now to skip the contradiction later.

Artisanal:  Artisanal doesn’t pack the same punch it once did.  In the truest sense, an artisan is a skilled craftsman that makes things from scratch.  Thus, artisanal products are those that are made from scratch every single time.  However, artisanal began to represent slightly better ingredients or off-kilter flavors; not products made by artisans.  Odds are, your product isn’t artisanal in the truest sense, so leave it off the label.

Crafted: Like artisanal, crafted has been overused to indicate authenticity.  However, instead of evoking an image of homemade goods, try to use verbs that more accurately describe your product.  Is your coffee crafted or cold-brewed?

Authentic: Speaking of authenticity, there’s no need to affirm that your product is authentic.  This is a word reserved for things that are truly the first of their kind.  Even if you’ve created a flavor or recipe that’s unique to your brand, avoid using authentic.  Instead, describe what stands out about your creation.

Handmade:  Telling a customer that something is handmade isn’t exactly helpful.  It’s a general term that could have dozens of meanings.  Focus on describing the benefits of your product being handmade.  For example, do your peach preserves have a richer flavor because they’re handmade?

To attract and retain business, you need a strong brand story.  But that brand story needs to tell the truth, or else, it could come back to haunt you and destroy your business.


Positioning Is the Key to a Successful Product Launch—Not Taste

For food entrepreneurs, the New Product Launch is the holy grail of your business.  This new product holds so much promise—it’ll increase your company’s market share, it’ll boost your annual revenue, and it’ll be the best product of its kind.  It’s easy to understand what you can gain from launching something new.  But what so many food entrepreneurs fail to understand is how to build an effective strategy.

Your ultimate goal is to launch a product that’s appealing to grocery stores and food retailers, and through this exposure, you’ll stand out from the competition, make it into a customer’s cart, and then onto their plates.  It sounds easy enough—Nielsen estimates that roughly 57% of shoppers like to purchase new products during each shopping trip.  But the odds are stacked against you.

Nielson also reports the U.S. market sees upwards of 20,000 new product launches annually, and only 24% of them stay on store shelves for a full calendar year.

These stats matter because Nielsen is not only a trusted authority with product launch data but they’ve also compiled their observations into the ultimate launch guide—12 Key Steps to Consumer Adoption.  If you heed their advice, you can avoid becoming part of the 76% that finishes the year in failure.

Of the 12 steps they cover, the first step is the most important.  If you can master this, you’ll have a serious shot at long-term success.

Create Unique Positioning
The first step in Nielsen’s report is “Distinct Proposition—Offer true innovation”.  One mistake food entrepreneurs make is relying on the taste or perceived superiority of their product.  The current market is chock full of “me too” products.  Whether you’re launching a garlic-infused olive oil, flavored honey, almond butter, or granola bars, it’s likely someone else has already done the same.  And should your product make it to the shelf, it’ll sit right alongside the competition.

Sure, it’s important for your product to deliver great taste once a customer takes it home.  But how are you grabbing their attention beforehand?  How do you communicate your product’s uniqueness and innovation?

Customers should feel an emotional connection to what you’re selling.  They should want it, and they should be able to afford it.  The trick here is that they need to realize these things before the seal has been broken.

Tweak your branding
Think about the variety of products at the supermarket.  Some of the direct competition with your product will be the supermarket’s own private label brands.  Those offerings will cost less despite probably using the same ingredients and providing similar taste.  Yet somehow, other brands have survived in this climate, and they’ve done so with branding.

What image are you using on your label?  How does your packaging stand out from everything else in the aisle?  Take Boxed Water, for instance.  The water aisle is probably one of the most competitive.  With storied and trusted brands like Zephyrhills and Poland Spring, and the recent onslaught of electrolyte-infused varieties from Smartwater and Essentia, it would seem there isn’t room for anyone else.  But Boxed Water did something no one else was doing—they put their water in a box instead of a bottle.  The brand also positioned their water as more environmentally-friendly, something that appealed to the globally conscious masses.  They achieved what seemed impossible; they launched an old product in a highly competitive environment…and succeeded.

Identify your differentiator
Your path to success involves understanding what makes your product special.  Though it’s important to promise and deliver quality, that’s not enough in an oversaturated market.  You need a differentiator. Whether it’s to help the environment, a charity or one’s personal health — the bottom line is that you need a niche.

What value does your product provide to the customer and to the retailer who distributes it?  What’s the distinction between your brand and the others?  If you can clearly identify this from the start, you can successfully launch your product, and you can ensure success long past the first year.

FreshSource, LLC Sales & Merchandising is proud to announce the recent hire of Mat Macdonald, as Retail Sales & Merchandising Manager

FreshSource, LLC Sales & Merchandising is proud to announce the recent hire of Mat Macdonald, as our new Retail Sales & Merchandising Manager for the Eastern Washington, Idaho & Montana regions.

“We are pleased to announce Mathew MacDonald joining the FreshSource PNW team servicing the Eastern WA, ID, MT markets. Mathew brings a wealth of foodservice/retail experience over the past 15 years in his career and will be a huge asset to our team on how to manage a growing region for all of our clients and portfolio of brands,” says Vice President of Pacific Northwest, Leith Anderson.

Mat has over a decade of experience in the service industry in various roles from lead bartender to upper management where he devoted his time to delivering exceptional customer care and excellent management. His passion for client satisfaction, attention to detail, and work ethic made him a perfect fit in joining the FreshSource team.

During his free time you can find Mat spending time with his lovely wife, Tawny, and their two young boys, Rowin and Manny, in beautiful Sandpoint, Idaho. Beyond his family, Mat enjoys playing golf and beach volleyball and also coaches the local high school football team (Go Bulldogs). Mat also devotes time mentoring and with local outreach to those suffering from addiction in the community.

FreshSource currently manages territories for their principal partners in the Pacific Northwest, Northern California, Southwest territories. FreshSource continues to understand the pressure to capture the attention and imagination of niche audiences in today’s ever-changing consumer market. They are committed to building sales, delivering key services and ensuring your goals are met! If you are seeking to net sustainable, consistent results please contact FreshSource, LLC to discuss your company’s future sales & merchandising needs.

Why Food Brokers Are the Best Way to Expand Your Business

Food retail is a $5 trillion industry, with roughly 40,000 supermarkets and storefronts throughout the U.S.  As the owner of a new food company, your goal is to get a slice of this very big pie.  But without the proper connections, it’s difficult to get a foot in the door.  A food broker can help.

What is a Food Broker?

Generally speaking, a food broker is the liaison between your company and the stores in which you’d like to place your product. Think of a food broker as your agent.  This person has the best contacts and can often make the difference between industry obscurity and great success.  More specifically, food brokers do the following:

  • Master the details: When convincing a supermarket or storefront to sell your product, everything must be perfect. Food brokers help you land on pricing, promotions, packaging, production logistics, demos, and the right marketplace. They help you present your product in the most compelling way possible.
  • Expert negotiator: They work with store buyers to find the best ways to promote your product. Whether that’s endcap placement or a sign at the register, they’ll land on the most effective methods to maximize your sales.  They’ll also negotiate the best possible terms of your deal.
  • Front and center: With a food broker, you won’t have to worry about your product being buried in a non-dominant location.
  • Bottom line: The ultimate objective of expansion is to produce more revenue. A food broker can help you achieve your business goals, which in turn improves your bottom line spending.  Plus, you can do this without bringing on an additional hire.
  • Peace of mind: They take care of all the tedious business stuff so you can focus on your passion—making an incredible product.

It’s important to note that food brokers are not salespeople.  While salespeople can be somewhat beneficial, they’re only focused on moving units and hitting targets.  They’re not concerned with strategy or building ongoing relationships with buyers (and department managers).

Additionally, food brokers are available in every possible niche.  Whether you sell organic, kosher, or other ethnic foods, there’s a broker that has your market cornered.  Be sure to select a broker that knows your specific category.

Finding a Food Broker

Now, it’s clear that you need a food broker.  But this realization is only half the battle.  Next, you need to start your search.  However, before you start sending emails and making cold calls, you need to understand as much as possible about your current business plan.

What do you love about your current model and what do you hate? And if you want to change anything, what would you do?  Be clear about what’s working and what needs improvement.  A food broker will work as a partner, guiding you through the necessary changes to reach new levels of success.  But you need to know your business inside and out before your initial contact.

Once you’ve analyzed your business, consider the following points:

  • Experience: What qualities should your broker possess? What kind of success metrics are you looking for?
  • Budget: How much have you allocated for expansion and marketing? What can you afford to pay out in commissions and fees?  This is a major factor in what your food broker can do for you.
  • Territory: Where are you currently selling the product, and where would you like to expand to? You need a food broker that has connections in your target market. Also, which distributors are you willing to turn over to your broker? Are your current distributors helping or hindering your ability to grow?
  • Research: Build a list of brokers you’d like to work with and find their contact people and information.
  • Prepare: Before a food broker can sell your product to buyers, you need to sell your product to them. This means an updated pricing sheet and thorough marketing plan, which includes strategies for demos, advertising and social media, and promotions.

After booking a meeting with your desired food broker, it’s time to sell them on your product.  Your sales pitch to them should be just as convincing and professional as if you were going directly to the head of Whole Foods, Sprouts, Nob Hill or Albertsons.  Your pitch should include your long-term goals (i.e. stores you’d like to work with, distributor gross margin, etc.), your primary categories, your previous failures and successes (and the reasons why), and what your brand stands for.

Additionally, you should share the stores you’ve been rejected by.  It might be painful to recount these details but covering this will help your broker assess your current challenges and ways to overcome them.

Your first meeting should also cover some important terms of your business relationship with the broker:

  • Verify background: What lines does this broker currently represent? What territories are they working in?  How long have they been in the business?
  • Pay: What’s their desired commission rate? Does that fall in line with your budget? How much wiggle room do you have?
  • Contract: You should come prepared with a contract, which can be reviewed on the spot if all goes well.

For food brands looking to launch a new product or expand their current business, food brokers aren’t just “nice to have”; they’re your key to national success. FreshSource represents products (Taylor Farms, Foxy, Green Giant, etc, etc) in nearly every major grocery store in the U.S., including Whole Foods, Sprouts, Vons Albertsons and many, many others – see full list here.


FreshSource, LLC’s Natalie Machado and Dave Juarez Discuss Success at FPFC Southern California Expo

Any produce person that’s made it through at least one full show season, knows that an industry event is a key time to shine. From a well-designed booth to newly formed connections, a successful show can leave you with a buzz that lasts past the closing events. For FreshSource, LLC, one of its most important expos of the year is FPFC SoCal; allowing the company and its clients a chance to dazzle the industry.

National Director of Marketing Natalie Machado and National Director of Retail Dave Juarez took the time to sit down with me and divulge not only what made this year’s event a success, but how FPFC SoCal primes FreshSource and its clients for yearlong success… Read More

Tony Zagarella to Promoted to Director of Retail for the North

We would like to officially announce the promotion of Tony Zagarella to Director of Retail for the North. Tony has shown a passion and energy for success during his nearly 3 years as a retail merchandiser, and this promotion is very well deserved. Tony has also been working on some independent accounts, and that focus will continue. The retail team will now report to Tony. Please congratulate Tony on his new position and wish him well in this new and vital role.

Please welcome Dennis Palma to the team

Please welcome Dennis Palma to the team. Dennis will be a sales merchandiser in the North Bay, covering from the Golden Gate to Ukiah over to Napa/Sonoma. Dennis most recently worked for Impact sales and brings a depth of experience in sales and merchandising.


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