Each day, I hear food founders ask things like, “If we’re headed into a recession, how can I possibly make it work with my CPG brand?” or, “Is anyone having success raising money right now?” or “My products are already expensive – how am I going to navigate price increases on top of this?” Sound familiar?
I’ve got good news and bad news: the good news is that we’re seeing some CPG founders inside of Retail Ready® have higher sales than ever before, secure funding this quarter (one of our students, Diaspora Spice Co., just raised $2.1M in Q3!), and continue to land regional and national placements in natural, conventional, and foodservice channels. You can do this too, despite what you’ve heard about slow sales, shifts in consumer spending, and challenges on the retail shelf.
The bad news: YOU have to take full responsibility for your success – for landing those wholesale accounts and increasing your velocity in your new and existing accounts. It’s not your broker’s, your distributor’s, or the retailer’s responsibility to drive sales for your brand. It’s on you – and this article will help you shift your thinking and increase your velocity regardless of the current economic climate (want to hear even more on how you take full responsibility? Watch RangeMe’s webinar “How To Increase Your Chances of Reorders” where I share some helpful tips here)!
How do you do it? By choosing the right channels, being creative with how you partner with your wholesale accounts, and doubling down on what’s working. Let’s dig deeper:
Choosing the right channels
The Retail Ready® brands that are increasing sales in 2022 are the ones who have reassessed their sales channels and determined which are the most lucrative for their product lines. Things may have shifted over the past few months or years for your brand as consumer behavior continues to change in this stage of the pandemic, and if you haven’t assessed your ROI in each of your channels, it’s time to take a look. Revisit the basics: who is your target audience, what problem are you solving for them, and where are they currently looking for your solution?
For example, if you’re selling single-serve packets of immunity-boosting powdered drink mixes, where is your audience looking for a quick hit for their immune system in a convenient, portable form? Perhaps you’re finding success in airports and travel-focused accounts, or are flying out of office canteens as employers are stocking their breakrooms with healthy choices for their in-office teams, or your 30-day subscription pack has an exceptional retention rate with your direct consumers. Get in front of your consumers where they’re currently looking for your products instead of trying to reshape consumer behavior (which is very costly and time-consuming for emerging brands!).
Get creative in your partnerships
Remember, when you’re stuck on the belief that once you get on the shelf it’s everyone else’s job to sell your product, you’re eroding those retail relationships, letting your sales stagnate, and are on the path to being discontinued. Instead, take full responsibility for your velocity, recognizing that your wholesale relationships are just that: relationships. When you show up as a partner, ready to take responsibility for your success, you gain the trust of those who can support you: your co-packer, your broker, your distributor, your merchandising team, and your wholesale buyers.
What does it look like to take full responsibility here? You analyze and shift your sales strategy to meet the wholesale partner where they are right now. That might include things like:
- Offering free standing display units to new accounts so they don’t have to take the time and energy to slot you into their shelf schematic
- Breaking up your multipack into single units so a retailer can sell your product at a lower price point and drive trial on the shelf
- Offering a seasonal discount to incentivize purchases
- Committing to buy-backs so the retailer doesn’t see your product as a risky move when you have a short shelf life
What you offer that retailer is dependent on what THEY need as a business, and what their consumers are asking for. How do you know? You ask them directly what would be helpful in this partnership, and tell them what you’re able to offer.
Review & repeat
We’ve all heard about the 80/20 rule, and it rings true in CPG as well. Often 80% of your revenue comes from the top 20% of your accounts, or from 20% of your efforts. You might feel that you have even more limited resources during a potential recession (money, time, and resources feel tight right now!), so you want to ensure that your efforts and expenses are worthwhile.
Simply put, you want to review what’s working and double down on it. So often we see brands stagnate on the retail shelf simply because they don’t take a proactive approach towards assessing what IS working for them (there’s almost always something that is working!) and prioritize doing more of that. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel with each new account, or each season – what’s more important is taking the time to look at our marketing tactics, assess what had a positive impact on sales, tweak it and repeat it. It comes back to shifting away from winging it, and towards planning ahead, defining your goals, and executing your tactics.