Producers currently selling directly to consumers through roadside stands, Community Supported Ag (CSAs), or farmers' markets may be interested in establishing relationships with retailers or foodservice distributors, as well. Distributors provide access to larger markets that do not routinely trade with producers. They also provide transportation and storage facilities that might be cost-prohibitive for producers. Producers can then reach a larger customer base that would be impractical by themselves.
- Develop a marketing plan. What products do you wish to sell? What business goals do you want to achieve? Distributors come in all shapes and sizes. They are looking for good products at a good value with a good story and consistency.
- Establish a relationship with a distributor. Set up a one-on-one meeting with a distributor to understand needs and expectations.
- Maintain a relationship with the distributor. Contact your distributor to ensure satisfaction with the process.
- Build your business. Create and use labels that tell your story. Attend food trade shows. Work with individual sales reps to promote products. Participate in in-store promotions. Consider advertising.
Foodservice and Retail Distributors Product Considerations
Here are some important product characteristics that help sell locally grown food.
- High quality and price.
- Documentation of chemicals, processes, growing conditions, certifications used.
- Specific regulations will apply to dairy, meats, poultry and fish.
- Specific regulations will apply to organic certification.