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Brand Owners: What Every Distributor Wants to Know !

By: Greg Seminara, Export Solutions
Topics: Food Distributor Interview

Strong consumer goods distributors are deluged with representation inquiries from around the world. The emails are usually supplemented by a product catalog and promise to mail a price list! In a best case scenario, this type of approach may lead to a request for more information from a good distributor. More likely, the distributor will skip your inquiry and move on to the next opportunity in his mailbox. Listed below are Export Solutions tips for “breaking through the clutter” and providing the right information to generate excitement and interest from the distributor community.

1. What is your USP ( Unique Selling Proposition) ?
USP defines your competitive edge versus all other brands battling for the same shelf space . The USP can revolve around quality, value, assortment, or packaging. However, you need to validate your claims. For example, a statement such as “tastes better than competitors A & B” should be supported by market research of consumers or blind tests of a sufficient panel group that backs your quality claim. Similarly, a retail price review can demonstrate a “better value” position. Your USP must also pass the litmus test : Is your USP relevant to the purchaser and consumer? For example, you might offer the only coffee with orange and lemon flavors, but is anyone really looking for this product ?

2. Have you done your homework on my market ?
The food/consumer goods industry is relatively transparent. Typically, brand owners simply need to visit the leading supermarket chains to obtain a “snapshot”of local category assortment, pricing and merchandising practices. The assortment and shelf space allocation will provide clues regarding consumer preferences from a taste/usage standpoint and potential gaps in the market. Syndicated data providers such as Nielsen and Euromonitor supply reams of data tracking category sales and trends. New brand representation offers to distributors that demonstrate a degree of understanding of local category market conditions will always receive an appreciative response.

3. What will the brand owner invest ?
The most important consideration after the USP definition! A distributor believes that he needs the right financial spend levels to aid him in achieving the results that he is capable of. The correct spend level usually reflects an appropriate mix of trade development funds ( listing fees/shelf space/flier participation) and consumer awareness activities ( sampling/pr etc.) The brand owner must acknowledge that there are fixed fees to enter virtually every market. Some distributors are willing to split these fees. It’s usually not enough to case rate spending unless you have a very strong proposition. Bottom line: If you are unwilling to invest in your brand…..why should the distributor invest his time and resources building your brand?

4. Where has the brand been successful ?
Your track record at building brands counts! Share your record proudly, particularly if the target country or retailer are well known and reside in an adjacent country. On the other hand a “Made in the USA” success story may not be impactful if you don’t intend to duplicate the conditions that brought you success such as local production and measurable marketing investments.

5. How tough is the job to launch your brand?
Are you attempting to enter a competitive category dominated by heavy spending multi-nationals ? Or are you aiming at an attractive niche? What are the brand owners expectations in terms of product availability and sales volume?

6. Can the distributor make money with your brand ?
Distributors seek to obtain a fair profit for their activities to support your brand. Profit must be measured in dollars contributed versus percent of sales. Distributors rarely make money during year one of an introduction as they allocate a disproportionate share of their resources to launch a brand. On the other hand, new brands in current categories for the distributor can bring new profits with minimal incremental effort. Globally recognized brands bring prestige to a distributor’s portfolio and may serve as a magnet to attract other brands. Brand owners must present a convincing case to the distributor on the incremental profits that your company can generate.