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5 Ways Brands Can Add Value to Drive Foodservice Distribution

5 Ways Brands Can Add Value to Drive Foodservice Distribution

Whether just getting started in foodservice or maintaining a long-standing market leadership position, distribution is a crucial cog in your foodservice flywheel.

According to a recent Datassential study (2022), 94% of all foodservice operations are purchasing at least some of their product from broadline distributors. Operators depend on the convenient ordering process, consistent pricing, and reliable deliveries. The same study revealed that Distributor Sales Reps (DSRs) are also the number one means through which operators discover new products (followed by food shows, word-of-mouth, and foodservice-specific publications).

So how do you give broadline distributors the proper incentive to stock your product, and the relevant education to effectively sell it? Here are 5 ways to get more out of your relationship with your distributor.

Demonstrate a strong, stable supply chain.

The best ability is availability. Any gap in your product supply can put your distributor in a tough spot with their customers – and open the door for a competitor or substitute product to swoop in. Remember, unlike a grocery store shelf, foodservice operators aren’t stocking multiple brands for the same product or menu item. If you’ve got it (a strong stable supply chain), flaunt it!

Come to the table with real demand from anchor customers.

Depending on your growth stage, this gets into chicken-or-the-egg territory, but here’s the gist: your distribution partner cannot be solely relied on to generate leads for your brand. Help move the process along by coming to your distributor with an influential customer in their distribution area. Think large school system, university campus, or multi-unit regional chain. If these operators like your product, they can demand it from their existing distributor – giving your brand a firm foot in the door and a real opportunity to demonstrate market viability.

Educate and equip your distributor sales reps.

DSRs have tens of thousands of SKUs dancing around in their heads at any given moment. Your brand story and selling proposition is unique and nuanced, and it’s your job to properly equip your extended sales team and connect them to the brand. Help them address potential objections they may face in the sale. For example, explain how to lead a successful cutting against a competitive product. Detail the watchouts that might come up around a specific ingredient or with a certain customer segment. Arm them upfront for a smooth selling process

Extend your marketing plan to the distributor’s ecosystem.

A strong foodservice strategy considers key touchpoints across the entire buyer journey – distribution is a critical piece of that. Pay attention to how your brand is represented on distributor e-commerce platforms in terms of selling language, imagery, and options for promos and ads. Consider extending your ad campaign or content marketing efforts to distributor platforms, such as email newsletters, social content, publications, and, of course, regional food shows.

Consider private label opportunities as a path to volume.

Distributor reps are often incentivized to sell their own private label portfolio over national/manufacturer brands. This isn’t a fit for every company, but if you’re willing to sacrifice some measure of brand awareness and proprietary control for case sales, packing under a distributor’s private label brand can open up greater volume opportunities with distribution partners.

Posted in: Thoughts
July 19, 2023

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