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.