• Maddie’s Market, an independent gourmet foods retailer in Highland Park, Ill., sought new pantry items for its assortment that were not available at local chains
  • The retailer worked with RangeMe on a sourcing campaign that delivered product submissions from 320 qualified brands across several categories
  • Owner Maddie Yastrow selected more than a dozen unique products for placement on its shelves, and is planning additional campaigns for the spring

“I never have to go to any food shows, because RangeMe brings the food shows to me.”

Madeleine Yastrow, Owner of Maddie’s Market, is not lying when she says this. As the first independent retailer to participate in a RangeMe sourcing campaign, she was able to evaluate more than 320 qualified brands, sample products from 86 of them and select more than a dozen for the shelves of her store – all without having to spend time away from her business. And as we all know, time is precious for an owner of an independent retail operation.

Indeed, Maddie is always on hand for her customers. If one of them mentions that she likes split pea soup, it’s available in Maddie’s Market the next day. That’s the kind of customer-first service you’ll find at the Highland Park, Ill.-based independent grocer, which offers gourmet prepared meals-to-go like chicken salad, sesame noodles, and dill pickle hummus (one of its bestsellers), as well as a variety of pantry items you can only find at that store.

From her parents’ kitchen to a storefront business

Maddie’s Market was born out of the pandemic and literally built one customer at a time. In March 2020 Yastrow was furloughed from her job in the food communications industry, and decided to quarantine with her parents at their home. To pass the time, she prepared elaborate home-cooked meals and posted some how-to cooking videos on social media.

Soon, family friends and neighbors who were tired of ordering in offered to pay Yastrow to make some home-cooked meals for them. “I thought about all of the things I wanted to cook, created the menus, then people would sign up for which nights they liked and they would get a three-course meal for $35 with curbside pickup,” says Yastrow. “Soon I was able to pay the rent for the apartment I wasn’t living in with the money I was making.”

By the time she was doing this steadily for about a dozen families, she realized she had a business, and Maddie’s Market was born. 

While prepared meals make up the core of the store’s offerings and draw the lunchtime traffic, Maddie’s Market also offers pantry items, snacks and other packaged foods. Yastrow likes to switch things up regularly to keep her offerings fresh and give her customers a reason to keep coming back and filling their baskets. 

However, as the owner of an independent retail operation, she wears many hats, from sales person, to social media manager, to accountant and even janitor. No time to go to trade shows or to negotiate with distributors. “I’ve tried Faire, but it was a shot in the dark,” says Yastrow. “And the major distributors wouldn’t ship products to me unless I spent a minimum of $500, and that’s not happening.”

She then found RangeMe and immediately signed up as a buyer. “It was awesome,” she says. “You can scroll through the products, request samples and get some really cool ideas. I was active daily on the platform.”

The RangeMe sourcing campaign

Yastrow’s activity was noted by RangeMe Customer Success Manager Colleen Warholic and Senior Director of Enterprise Solutions Jerry Su, who suggested that she might want to try a sourcing campaign.

RangeMe has been helping retailers host sourcing campaigns for years, and many of the large retailers on the platform host them to find products in specific categories. Here’s how they work: The retailer decides on the categories and specific criteria of brands with which they would like to consider – criteria that can include required certifications, specific attributes (such as gluten-free or plant-based), and even manufacturing location (for local brands). RangeMe then invites brands on the platform to submit their products via a special link. The retailer then reviews the submissions and makes their selections for follow ups.

Maddie’s Market was the first time RangeMe offered a sourcing campaign for an independent retailer, and Yastrow was happy to be pioneer. She wanted to cast a wide net, and so RangeMe sent invitations to RangeMe Starter and Premium suppliers across several food and beverage categories. 

“I was looking for pantry items, snacks and other products that are typically not sold at mass retailers like Whole Foods or Publix,” she says. “We have big box grocery stores everywhere, and so I needed another draw in addition to the prepared foods our customers come in for at lunchtime, brands that might be known but that you couldn’t find around here.”

Once the categories and parameters were set, an invite was sent out to brands to submit their products to the retailer. Submissions were done via a special RangeMe page, where brands must answer several questions about their products when they make their submission.

A food show on her laptop

Three hundred and twenty qualified brands submitted products, and after reviewing each of them on RangeMe, Yastrow requested samples and additional information from 86 of the applicants for further evaluation. “When the samples came in, it was like Christmas,” says Yastrow. “It was a dream come true for someone like me, having all of these samples of the most incredible products to try out.”

In a brilliant move, Yastrow invited some of her most loyal customers to come in and help review the samples. “They were loving the process, and together we found some awesome products that we subsequently brought into the shop,” she says. 

Based on the sample reviews, Yastrow made her selections of which brands will have products featured in her stores. She has already added products from several brands to her assortment, including The Panza, Rancho Meladuco Dates, Purposeful Pup, Mad Tasty, Bees and Beans, Monterey Farms ArtiHearts, and Santa Caterina Gourmet Tuna. Coming soon will be products from The Blue Elephant, Pineapple Collaborative, EVOO and Mazzeo’s Marinara Sauce.

A supplier’s perspective

The Panza, one of the first brands Yastrow selected, has already seen strong sales at Maddie’s since having its products added to the assortment. The Panza gourmet snacks are thin, crispy sweet cracker cookie sticks, each is artisan-crafted with impeccably sourced high-quality natural and organic ingredients that are non-GMO and vegetarian friendly – ideal to pair with coffee, tea, wine, cheeses, dips, fresh fruits, ice cream or added to charcuterie boards.  

“We really enjoyed the sourcing campaign process, it was easy and straightforward,” says Gianna Malatrasi, Co-Founder & CEO of The Panza, which has been seeing its products fly off the shelves at Maddie’s. “Everything is streamlined and clear. RangeMe allows smaller companies to showcase their products to so many prospective buyers, that it can be a gamechanger for any company that has a great product. The competition, especially in the food and beverage market is incredible, but somehow RangeMe allows for the smaller vendor to play as an equal against the larger more established company.”

Malatrasi adds that it’s exciting and rewarding at the same time to be discovered by smaller businesses, and working with Maddie’s Market has been a fantastic experience. “The care, attention to detail, and thought that small business owners place into all the products that they bring into their stores is different from the large chain stores,” she says. “They truly know and understand their customers and can foresee what might spike their interest. These markets are an integral part of the community and allow us vendors to grow organically. Also, it is a more personal experience, as one gets to know and interact with the business owners themselves which is an invaluable source of information.” 

More campaigns to come

Following the success of her first sourcing campaign, Yastrow plans to do additional, more focused campaigns in the near future. “We have some incredible snacks, but we can use a refresh on our crackers, chips and pretzels,” she says. “We have a summer music festival each year and I’d like to find some great products for this season. In the spring, I’ll look to do one geared toward cheese, hummus and spreads because I do a lot of selling for the concert-goers’ picnics. I’ll plan these out according to my seasonal needs.” 

In the meantime, Yastrow will still be logging onto RangeMe each morning while she has her coffee. “I just scroll through for 10 minutes each day, get some new ideas, spark a little joy, maybe request a sample or two,” she says. “It’s just become a part of my routine. Sure, I may search for some specific items from time to time, but I also like to browse, because you never know what’s going to pop up.”

Editor’s note: Sourcing campaigns like the one hosted by Maddie’s Market are open to RangeMe Starter, Premium and Pro subscribers. Click here to upgrade to one of these plans!

Watch the full video interview here!

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