Why Food Brokers Are the Best Way to Expand Your Business

October 5, 2017

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

October 3, 2017

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

How to Successfully Cross-Merchandise in any Aisle

May 22, 2015

The Art of Cross Product Promotion

Cross merchandising is an art form that involves far more than a grocery store manager deciding where to pair bananas with cereal displays. “Cross merchandising is important because people buy solutions not products and retailers tend to sell products and not solutions. So they need to combine things that tend to cross departments,” says Neil Stern, senior partner with McMillan Doolittle, a retail consulting firm in Chicago (source: about.com).


“In general, placement can lift the sales of different items,” Venky Shankar, professor of marketing at the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University, told United Press International (source: Retail Now case study). “It’s true across the board, but the amount depends on categories.”

Why It Works

A case in point is the pairing of chips and soda pop. When displayed adjacent to one another, soft drink sales increased up to 9% while chips remained the same. “If you are shopping for chips, you may remember you get thirsty when you eat them, so you buy soda,” Prof. Shankar told UPI. “But if you stop at a gas station because you’re thirsty, you probably aren’t going to buy chips.” (source: UPI)

At West Point Market in Akron, Ohio, produce shoppers can sample new-crop autumn apples with cubes of cheddar, an experience that boosts sales of both. At Central Markets in Texas, the cheddar is pre-cut into approximately $6 portions and displayed atop of an uncut block of cheddar alongside apples to prompt an impulse purchase (source: Specialty Food Association).

Pre-cut Gruyère with Anjou pears also tempts Central Market shoppers. “We see huge jumps in sales when we put cheese in produce,” says Debbie Harris, cheese merchandiser for the 10 New Seasons Markets, all in the Portland, Ore., area. Aged Gouda in pre-cut $4 portions sells well when merchandised with apples and pears and can remain un-refrigerated longer than cheddar’s, Harris says. (source: Specialty Food Association).

Keys to Success

To achieve success with cross-merchandising there are four ingredients that are critical to making your display work:

Correlation: Group together products that are related in some way. For instance, an electronics retailer might display some popcorn or beverages near their DVDs and Blu-Ray movies.

Relevance: Create your product display around a central theme. Cluttering it with unrelated products and no central theme will only reduce its effectiveness as a marketing tool.

Performance: After setting up any cross-merchandising display, pay close attention to your sales in the weeks and months to follow. If it’s not performing well, don’t be hesitant to make some changes.

Profiling: Think like a customer. Ask yourself — does this display make me want to buy the product? If you answered no, it’s probably time to re-think your product display.

The Takeaway

In the end, cross merchandising is much more than the rearranging of product from one department to another. It’s all about creating a theme – ultimately finding and promoting the thread that ties the featured products together.

When done right, cross-merchandising can drive more sales and higher profits. It’s a simple marketing technique that nearly all of the nation’s top retailers use and a strategy that Fresh Source leverages for many of its product vendors.

How to control product shrinkage by customers

May 16, 2015

Damage Control in the Produce Aisle 

For the uninitiated, fresh produce shrink is common to every produce department and is mainly caused by the handling of the product, which in turn induces enough damage to make the product unsellable at its full potential price. Unfortunately, the people involved in what’s technically referred to as ‘mechanical damage’ happens to be customers and employees. Thousands of hours and collective brainpower have been harnessed to combat this conundrum.

Produce Shrinkage - Bell Peppers

Shrink from customer interaction is typically caused by over handling or dropping of fragile items in a way that causes bruising or exterior damage. FreshSource takes a hands-on approach to helping produce managers understand how to best handle and display products we represent, with field representatives visiting stores and visually inspecting displays on a daily basis.

Below are five best practices that we advocate to reduce shrinkage from customer handling:

  1. Positioning: Do not place products on too steep of an angle — as customers shop, it increases the likelihood that the product will tumble to the floor and crack or bruise.
  2. Display: Position products in a manner that is easy for a customer to pick up and inspect. Displaying your broccoli all-stems-down may have an excellent visual appeal, but each customer will be grabbing the product from the top and breaking or crumbling portions of the florets every time they examine the display.
  3. Communication: Place a sign or sticker to indicate that a product is ripe so that customers do not feel the need to squeeze every peach or avocado in your perfectly arranged display.
  4. Packaging: Place loose items like field greens and beans in containers or bins that reduce the likelihood of the product being dropped or stepped on.
  5. Signage: For heavy items that require a helping hand, use sign displays to encourage shoppers to ask for assistance loading their cart. This will reduce waste from melons and pumpkins accidentally splattering onto the floor.

Although most produce departments come staffed with fully competent management and personnel, FreshSource ensures each store has the equipment they need to display and distribute our product vendor inventory 24/7/365.

Have questions regarding product shrinkage and how you can combat it? Reach out to us today for a complimentary product evaluation and we will provide you with tangible ideas on how to keep your displays in optimal condition.

USDA Says Aloha to Hawaii’s Sharwil Avocado

September 23, 2013

“Greetings and Welcome Back” is a traditional Hawaiian greeting, but not one usually extends it to a fruit, no matter how Hawaiian it is. But the US Department of Agriculture has essentially said it to Hawaii’s Sharwil avocado, allowing the prized green delicacy back onto the US mainland after 21 years with all its natural flavor intact.

sharwil-avacadoIt only seems right and long overdue, given that in 1992, the poor Sharwil was arguably a victim of circumstantial evidence. That was the year an oriental fruit fly larva was found in a Hawaiian packing house that processed Sharwil avocados, along with other local produce. Though never identified as the source of the crop-devastating insect, the USDA slapped stringent export requirements on the Sharwil. These requirements were so strict—exposure to cold, fumigation—that they would have destroyed the taste and reputation of the delicate Sharwil in order to save it. Stripped of its succulent, nutty flavor by cold and chemicals, mainland guacamole lovers would quickly have abandoned what was before a prized delicacy, leaving it to rot on supermarket shelves. Fearing the fruit’s reputation would be forever marred, Hawaiian farmers stopped exporting the Sharwil to the mainland and began the long process of clearing its name—and clearing it for export again in its natural state.

Led by growers and Hawaii’s congressional delegation, advocates of the fruit uncovered new research showing the Sharwil is at the bottom of the oriental fruit fly’s list of preferred hosts. The USDA has now approved export of the Sharwil to 32 states. Though Maui and the Big Island farmers grow close to a million pounds of the large, round Sharwils a year, the USDA projects the Hawaiian import will garner only 1% of next year’s US avocado market. But Hawaiian avocado growers are optimistic, with Hawaii Avocado Association President Tom Benton believing the Sharwil over the next ten years will find and establish an expanding niche market throughout the states.

Aloha and Ee komo ma, Sharwil, from your friends on the mainland.