Hire a Food Broker as a Partner in New Food Product Launch Success

Getting on the supermarket retail shelf with an expert

Grocery store shelves
••• Tim Graham/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Consider a food broker to help you on your journey to placement on retailers' shelves. This is a guest article written by Judy Alexander, founder of Specialty Gourmet, located in Hurley, NY. As a Specialty Food & Confection Consultant & Brokerage Company they have a focus in Natural, Organic, Specialty and Ethnic Foods

A food broker represents food brands and helps you get your products on shelves in an ever more competitive supermarket and specialty food retail environment. Think of a food broker as your partner as well as your outside sales force that becomes an integral part of your new product launch strategy.

Different Types of Food Brokers

Some specialize in a specific area in the food business such as specialty food brokers, organic food brokers, natural food brokers, kosher food brokers‚Ķthe list goes on.

As a food entrepreneur starting or running a food business finding the right broker can be challenging. There are many options for you as well as questions to be asked and clarified before you begin the process. First look at your business model. Are you happy with it? Do you want to make changes to it? If so what are they? Look at your business and see where you need help. Then look at your dollars. How much do you have to allocate towards expansion?

How to Find the Right Food Broker

Consider your needs by asking these questions:

  • What are you looking for in a food broker?
  • What are your expectations of that person/s?
  • What is your marketing budget?
  • What are the fees and/or commission rate you can pay? Be realistic.
  • What territory will you give them? Again be realistic.
  • What distributors are you willing to give them to expand your business?
  • Look at the distributors you are currently in and the territory they cover.
  • Have representatives sell kit ready to go and a sample kit to show.
  • Contact person for that broker.
  • Price sheet for Wholesale and Distributor.
  • Have your marketing plan available that illustrates how you will be competitive. Key aspects are New Product Launch tactics (advertising, social media plans), Food Demos, and overall Trade Promotion plans (includes price reductions and market development funds).
  • Remember time is money for the both of you.

Prepare Your Sales Pitch

Before you start contacting food brokers, do some initial preparation in order to properly position your brand and clearly think about your needs. Creating a successful sales pitch takes time and is worth it to attract the right broker for your food brand. Some key questions in this area:

  • How do you see your business growing?
  • Categories you see your line in.

What stores have you contacted? Which stores have turned you down and why?

  • Which stores would you like to be in?
  • Understand who you are?
  • What do you stand for?
  • Do you have sufficient gross margins for Distributors?
  • Convey as much as possible about your business to the broker.
  • They want to sell the line.
  • Have a contract prepared.

Questions to Ask at Your First Meeting

  • What lines do you carry?
  • What territory do you handle?
  • How long have you been doing this?
  • Your commission?
  • References?
  • Contract Review?

What Brokers Do vs. Salespeople 

Brokers and salespeople are not the same. A salesperson just sells the line. A partnership with a broker will allow you to get the biggest bang for your buck. For a commission and sometimes a retainer fee, brokers can help you grow quickly:

  • Brokers help you determine the marketplace, the pricing, the packaging, the logistics, the demos, and the promotions.
  • They work with the store buyer to promote the line thru any number of modalities. They "broker" the deals.
  • They negotiate the deals.
  • They provide your product with a presence.
  • They coordinator the demos, the promotions, they market your line so that you may do what you do best which is produce the line.
  • They help you achieve your company goals.
  • They improve the bottom line.

Food brokers are an asset to any vendor and/or manufacturer. By all means, consider contracting with a broker to quickly get help selling without the investment of a hire.