2018 FPFC is a Huge Success

October 18, 2018

Fresh Produce & Floral Council Expo in Southern California a Record Sell-Out

FreshSource at FPFC 2018

FreshSource Team Pre-Event Huddle

The 2018 FPFC Southern California Expo was a tremendous success. This year’s event, which was held at Disneyland Hotel Convention center – featured over 200 vendor booths and attracted a record breaking attendance of 1,600 participants – a complete sell out. All of the industry decision makers – from buyers, food service representatives and in-store produce executives were all present.

TV personality and food tasting extraordinaire, Andrew Zimmerman, gave this year’s keynote presentation. His life experiences – battle with addiction and sobriety – were both insightful and inspiring to all in attendance. We also want to congratulate Jeff Miller, managing partner at Westlake Produce Co., who took home the Norman H. “Buz” Bolstad Award, presented annually to someone who has contributed significantly to the produce industry.

Team FreshSource produced an amazing display that showcased all participating principals – many of whom provided samples to attendees and introduced buyers to their line of products. We want to personally thank The Lighthouse, Hampton Farms, Taylor Farms, Wholly Guacamole, Christopher Ranch, Pete’s Living Greens, Ocean Mist, Red Shell, Made in Nature, Bing, Living Herbs, House Foods, AirFlo, GloriAnn Farms, Bland Farms, Zespri, and Jovy – for their participation in this year’s expo.

Below are pictures from the event. If you think your brand would benefit from this type of exposure – drop us a line.

FPFC 2018 FPFC 2018 FPFC 2018

FPFC 2018 FPFC 2018

Is your product ready for a big box grocery store?

September 14, 2018

You’ve spent hundreds of hours, thousands of dollars and have exerted blood, sweat, and tears into making your food product a success. You’ve got your product into local mom and pop stores, sell online and maybe even at a local specialty store. Now you’re ready to go big and have your eyes set on acquiring distribution with the idea that once you sign a deal, all you need to do is focus on making more product(s).

A common misconception by new food manufacturers is that a food distributor will find retail outlets for their product and all they need to do is to produce the product, hand it off to the distributor and wait for the money to roll in. The reality is that a distributor only moves your product from the loading dock to the stores you instruct them to deliver to — the rest is entirely up to you. A distributor is not the marketing solution for a new manufacturer; it is a logistics solution.

This is where representation from an independent manufacturer representative can become a real value-add for your business. A seasoned in-store retail sales merchandiser typically has dozens, in some cases hundreds of relationships with grocery chains in multiple regions. For instance, FreshSource has an army of field merchandisers who have established relationships with grocery department managers across the west coast and many parts of the U.S. When we take a food product to market we are able to influence where the product is sold, it’s position in-store and other factors that are conducive to sales and success.

At the end of the day experience and relationships can make or break the success of your product in-store. Working with a proven in-store merchandising partner can help you both gain access to a network of stores and grow your brand. A successful food broker will provide you with honest feedback and market insights that can propel your brand to new heights. If you’re ready to push your product to the next level, you may want to consider requesting an initial product review and assessment from a retail sales and merchandising expert.

 

 

 

Why Packaging Design Is Important in Today’s Grocery Market

July 25, 2018

Today’s grocery store features over 40,000 products from front to back – giving consumers more choices than ever before. Whether your product is a jar of spicy pickles or an all-natural energy drink – consumers tend to judge a product by its cover. You may think that the inside of your product packaging is all that matters but you couldn’t be more wrong in today’s competitive environment. The look of the package affects how a product is perceived in terms of quality and palatability. In order to gain traction in a supermarket you need to win an ever-growing popularity contest or your great product will have a short shelf life.

Customers often make decisions as to the quality of your food product by assessing whether they can re-close or seal a bag – or whether your container is capable of keeping things fresh as long as possible. Remember, the appearance of a package is key to establishing your product’s identity and if the wrapper or container looks mediocre, that perception may hurt your sales.

Since retail shelf space is at a premium in virtually any store, you can expect department managers to pick winners and losers based on sales and momentum. If you want a shot at premium eye-level locations, you need to make sure your product packaging is both functional and eye-catching.

It’s equally important to understand the demographics of the audience you’re pitching your product to and the location of the supermarkets you intend to sell your products in. When we go to the grocery store, we seldom shop on logic alone. We may not even buy on price. We buy one type of yogurt over another because of brand loyalty, or because one brand has more appealing packaging than another.

The moral of the story is that looks matter. Obviously, your product has to deliver in terms of flavor, texture, and a host of other factors but ensuring that your product packaging sends the right message and makes a solid impression is equally essential.

Tags: food broker, in-store merchandising, retail sales

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

January 11, 2018

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

January 3, 2018

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.

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).

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“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.