What is a Food Broker?
A food broker’s goal is to get your product on the shelf at grocery stores and help you market your product to customers. Alliance Sales and Marketing is a national food broker, headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, that represents conventional and natural supermarkets and grocery stores from coast to coast. As a food broker, we work with grocery stores to negotiate the cost of selling your products. The majority of food brokers represent clients in all food categories — from frozen to snacks to canned goods.
Do You Really Need a Food Broker?
Well, it depends. Some food stores, like Whole Foods and Wakefern (a retailer cooperative of supermarkets in the northeast), allow potential food suppliers to submit their information online. But, as you can imagine, these stores receive a ton of submissions, making it hard to stand out in the crowd. That’s where Alliance comes in. We can help get you a seat at the table.
Food Brokers Connect Your Brand with Buyers
Since 2004, Alliance has worked to strategically connect food companies to grocery stores across the United States. That means that over the last 15 years, we’ve built relationships with buyers in every department of conventional and natural / specialty food stores. Simply put, a buyer’s responsibility is to purchase merchandise for grocery stores in a certain geographic area. The buyer works with a food broker to evaluate the potential success of your product by examining your brand, your point of differentiation within your category, and any prior performance data.
If a product is new or expanding into a new store or market, a food broker is instrumental in negotiating sales and product placement with a buyer. A strong promotional plan makes it clear to the buyer that your brand has what it takes to succeed in their retail stores.
A Food Broker Places You in the Right Channel and Market
Of course, every small business has dreams of being a household name, but it’s important to understand that this kind of success doesn’t happen overnight. A good food broker is knowledgeable about your category as well as the wholesalers and retailers in their region. After becoming familiar with your product, the broker recommends what stores and markets you should target first in order to grow sustainably and successfully.
Depending on the type of food product that you’re producing or manufacturing, a food broker may recommend that you start exclusively in natural / specialty food stores, conventional food stores, or both. For example, if you’re a free-range egg product like Pete and Gerry’s, the food broker may recommend that you grow your sales volumes in a natural food store, like Whole Foods, Sprouts Farmers Market, and Bi-Rite Market, before moving into conventional stores.
Alliance Sales and Marketing works on the conventional side of grocery, while our sister company, Alliance Natural, focuses on— you guessed it — natural food stores. Whether you’re targeting mom-and-pop local markets in New England or a supermarket chain in the southeast, Alliance has representatives in every region.
Food Brokers Help Ensure the Right Placement on Shelf
So, the paperwork is done and you’re on the shelf in the right stores and in the right markets. Now what? To ensure that your product performs well in your category, a food broker works with you and with stores to increase visibility and understanding of your product. One of the best ways to achieve that is with a viable promotional plan. The goal of a promotional plan is to help get customers acquainted with your brand – because, of course, shoppers are more likely to try a new product if it’s on sale.
To participate in promotions, you must have adequate marketing dollars in your budget. Your food broker helps you understand the costs associated with a promotional calendar so that there are no surprises down the road.
Food Brokers Help You Achieve Long-Term Success
Once your product is on the shelf, a food broker’s job is to ensure that you continue to grow your brand and become an integral player in your category. Food brokers have first-hand knowledge of how to succeed at specific retailers across the country.
At the retail level, your food broker will work with buyers conducting category reviews. During a category review, the buyer determines which under-performing products should be discontinued. If your product is on shaky ground with buyers, your food broker can go to bat for you and negotiate what offers the store can run to boost sales and keep you on the shelf.
As you grow with retailers, food brokers can use data to conduct research on potential product line extensions. By continually debuting new items in your category and extending your line into new categories, your brand is claiming more shelf space and more consumer dollars.
Food Brokers Show You How You Stack Up Against Competitors
Alliance has proprietary data analysis methods that allow food and beverage producers to understand how products are performing in a category. While many food companies already have insight into their competitors and their category, it can be difficult and expensive to access all the data you’ll need to make critical future decisions. Understanding and interpreting your data is key to your success.