CourtingNewBuyers

Courting Buyers

We have packed up about half of our initial run. A lot of that is going to the Kickstarter backers soon, but we finally have something to sell. The thing is, before we can get onto the store shelves we need to convince the store that they should sell it. This is surprisingly straightforward. Not easy, just straightforward.

 

(The photo is from a visit to a Connecticut corn grower. No, it’s not really relevant. I need to take more photos of grocery stores…)

 

It makes sense. If you own a store you are going to be picky about what you put on the shelf. If you choose crappy products you get unhappy customers, and, eventually, you need to start looking for a new line of work.

 

Smaller stores usually have an employee (or owner) who acts as a buyer while also helping with other back office needs. In stores like Whole Foods there are many buyers that are tiered by the number of stores they oversee. This starts with “local foragers” who’s job is to find interesting and worthy local foods to sell through local Whole Foods markets. This is essentially the entry point into Whole Foods. If you ask me, I think it’s pretty awesome that they actively seek local food producers to showcase in their store. No one else does it. I swear, the more we work with Whole Foods the more unique/good things we find out about them. More on that later.

 

So, about the straightforward bit. Basically, you give the buyer some product, they try it, and if they like it, and the price makes sense, your in. It’s not complex, but it’s also their job to be picky. They need to have a pulse on what’s selling and be able to interpret how you fit into that. With a product like microwave popcorn it’s also stressful because it so easy to screw it up.

 

We know we will really need to sell ourselves to get into some stores. We know it’s not going to be easy. So far, though, the feedback has been amazing. The buyers have loved the product and have started buying cases. It’s funny that each and every bit of positive feedback we receive has a huge impact on us. Somehow we have been crafting this thing for over a year, but we are about as secure as a teenage girl. Yes, I am hunting for compliments…

 

Since it’s going well with buyers so far, we will be in Boston areas stores soon. I will post a list once it’s a little longer. This is a major achievement, but it’s still just a tiny step in the bigger plan. Ultimately, getting into stores is much easier than getting consumers to buy your product and buy it regularly. This is the core challenge to creating a sustaining food company.

COMMENTS

  1. Ivan Y wrote:

    That photo is a lot prettier than a grocery store photograph. Takes me back to helping my grandparents on their plot of land (a little bit of everything – from corn to potatoes to fruits). Honestly, can’t beat homegrown stuff — even organic produce doesn’t taste the same.

    But I digress… Glad to hear about your progress in getting store orders. Good luck with the sales — I imagine getting a wider pickup from a chain is mostly dependent on how well it sells in “pilot” stores.

    Lastly, since Quinn Popcorn is making it on retail shelves and getting an even wider exposure, have you thought about making the site more product-oriented as opposed to a blog? Because this is a premium product, one section that could be useful to prospective buyers is something along the lines of Quinn Popcorn vs. Typical Popcorn (unhealthy, dangerous bags, etc.) and Quinn Popcorn vs [Typical] Organic Popcorn.

    The latter, I think, might be good to have because QP doesn’t carry an organic label, so some buyers might dismiss it in favor of, say, Bearitos. Our Whole Foods sells their organic popcorn (http://www.amazon.com/BEARITOS-Organic-Microwave-Popcorn-Lightly/dp/B000F0FVMW) and it’s our current favorite. After reading your post on organic labeling, I studied their ingredients list and they managed to achieve organic status but pretty much limiting themselves to corn and salt.

  2. Coulter wrote:

    Really good point Ivan. Yes, it’s totally time to revamp the site to showcase the product a little more. I am really struggling on how to do that without sacrificing the blog too much. I’m enjoying the blog and we get tons of good ideas from you guys. It would stink if it just became a menu item on the front page. There is a right balance and we will experiment until we find it.

    And yes, I love the idea of a direct comparison between our product and all others. It’s a complex story to tell and I think a good graphic/photo could go a long way toward making it all more comprehensible. It also needs to be informative without being fatalistic. There is some really bad stuff in all of the other products, but I don’t want to come across as too dramatic. I also want it to be clear that we are not telling you how to eat. These are things we see and it’s up to the reader to choose what fits their values and priories. That was verbose… Sorry for the stream of consciousness.

COMMENT