In the fiercely competitive world of retail, getting your NPD in front of buyers and llisted in supermarkets can be trying.

While there isn’t an exact science to getting your food and drink brand listed, top UK supermarket buyers and heads of buying have offered key advice to guide brands through the process.

From the initial approach to maintaining a productive relationship, industry insiders from Sainsbury’s, Co-op, Asda, Ocado and Planet Organic share their top tips on how to make a food or drink brand stand out. Whether a startup or an established business, The Grocer has gathered key insights to help brand leaders navigate the retail landscape and get their product on shelves.

Ben Davies, Vypr (former Sainsbury’s and Co-op buyer)

Ben Davies Vyprco Sainsburys

1. How should I approach a buyer for the first time?

You’ll need to grab their attention over the course of a few weeks, without just relying on emails. Consider multiple touchpoints, including creative methods, as well as some more predictable approaches such as emails and calls. It’s a little like advertising – a consumer doesn’t buy into a new brand or product after seeing one single advert, it takes five, 10, 15 touchpoints before they’ll engage.

You may need to find people to refer to so your approach is linked to an internal source. For example: ‘I spoke to this individual in the store team, and they suggested I reach out,’ is more powerful than a cold email.

Once you do get their attention, grab them with empirical evidence-led headlines that tease how you are going to positively impact one or more of their key metrics. You need to intrigue them. Make them to want to know more.

2. What key information do supermarket buyers need to know before listing a product?

You need to demonstrate a balanced view of the category, with the retailer’s best interest at heart. It’s no good just talking about how much a small group of superfans love your brand, you need to demonstrate that listing your brand will result in cross-category growth. Try to understand what key challenges the buyer is facing, and then show how you can help address them. For example, if a buyer is struggling with falling penetration among younger consumers, show how listing your brand can address that.

The more empirical evidence you present to a buyer, the less analysis they have to do. Decision overload is one of the reasons a buyer would kick a decision down the road. If it’s difficult for them to reach a decision, or if the evidence is subjective or murky, they won’t do it.

3. What don’t buyers want to know about an fmcg product?

If you lead with an opinion or ego-led brand pitch that shows little understanding of the key dynamics of the category, your chances of success will be very low. You need to position yourselves as championing the retailer, arriving on the scene to help them kick their category forwards. Making a pitch that talks exclusively about how great your brand is, without any consideration for how it might fare against key competitors, or what effect it might have on private label, will result in failure. Show that you’ve got the best interests of the category at heart, and you will have a better chance of success.

4. What makes for a good ongoing relationship between brands and buyers?

Buyers are busy. So regular, time-efficient contact is key here. Don’t overload inboxes with impenetrable emails and lengthy powerpoint decks. Send the buyer the key information they need on a weekly or monthly basis, in a form they can easily digest and share. Regular, small touchpoints is the way to approach the relationship, so the buyer feels in control of the account, but not over-burdened. The days of hour-long account check-ins are gone for all but the largest suppliers. Ask the buyer what form they would most welcome your communication in, and simply mirror that. Tools like WhatsApp can be a really useful way to stay in regular contact – but ask permission first.

Sharing useful external information (activity in competitor retailers) in a digestible and disseminatable way, that can make the buyer look good internally when they share it, is a really useful approach to building relationships above and beyond the day-to-day dealings of running an individual account.

5. How else can I help to get my fmcg brand listed by a supermarket buyer?

My main guidance would be to shift everything from the subjective to the objective – provide data-led evidence rather than unsubstantiated opinions. Present a case more like a lawyer and less like a brand agency. Evidence and data outweighs opinions and gut feeling.

Your goal is to take decisions away from the buyer. The fewer decisions they have to make, the easier it is for them to consider listing your brand. 


Ged Futter, The Retail Mind (former buying manager for Asda)

Ged Futter

1. What is the best way to contact a supermarket buyer?

It is likely your approach will be an email or a call. If it is an email, the title will need to make the buyer want to read on, not just bin it.

2. What key information do you need to know?

You need to know your buyer’s name, how long they have been in the category and what prior experience they have – how much will they know about you and your brand? 

3. What will instantly shut down a consideration?

Not tailoring your approach to each retailer and not knowing what it could be worth to that retailer. Getting your numbers wrong. Selling a product because it is what the factory can make, not because it has a customer rationale.

4. What makes for a good ongoing relationship between brands and buyers?

Be confident in yourself and your brand. Self-belief will go a long way. Buyers want to work with individuals and brands that can make things happen and that will listen. Listen to the customer and the buyer. Just listen, listen and listen.

5. Do you have any other top tips?

Once you have got a listing, the hard work really starts. It can be harder to keep your space on shelf than getting there. Constantly look at ways to drive sales and profit, get closer to stores and speak to store colleagues.


Kayleigh Jackson, senior buying manager for Soft Drinks, Asda

Kayleigh Jackson

1. How should I approach a buyer for the first time?

Think outside the box. A buyer will receive a lot of emails, so make sure yours stand out.

2. How should I share information about my brand?

Be confident, clear and concise – and share the facts upfront. What is the sales and market share opportunity, the margin, etc?

3. Why would a supermarket buyer ignore my pitch?

You have to think about what makes your product or package different. Is this a new market and completely incremental sales? Are there any environmental benefits? Can you offer any first-to-market opportunities or exclusive flavours?

4. What is going to keep a buyer engaged long-term?

Launch and love your brand to give it the best chance of success. Monitor sales and availability, share data and insights with the trading team, offer promotions to drive sales.

5. Top tip to getting an fmcg supermarket buyer to notice my pitch?

Most importantly, be yourself. This might sound cheesy, but people buy people. I enjoy working with big established brands but I also get really excited to bring new products and brands to market with smaller suppliers. 


Leo Fields, buying director, Ocado

Leo Fields, Buying Director Ocado

1. How does Ocado like to be approached by new brands?

We’re always keen to hear from new suppliers, so definitely get in touch. At Ocado, we have almost 50,000 products and our model means we can add new suppliers without having to give up shelf space and remove lines. The best way to get through to an Ocado buyer is via There’s lots of information on there and we’ll be taking new applications from July. Of course, our buyers’ inboxes are always busy, so it’s best to catch them when they’re actively looking to add to their range, which is when they’re reviewing applications.

2. What does Ocado want to know about a new food and drink brand?

The application form on has been carefully designed to help a buyer assess your fit with Ocado customers and if you’re ready to supply retail.

3. What will instantly shut down a consideration?

The best way to be considered is to make sure you’re completely retail-ready. This means having the appropriate accreditation – it’s also important to have your packaging and logistics set up. Make sure you have a clear view of your commercials with a good plan for activation once you’re on board.

4. What makes for a good ongoing relationship between brands and buyers?

It’s always a good idea to be proactive and make sure you know each retailer’s ways of working. Retail is about detail. If you understand their ways of working, it means your conversations with the buyer can focus on your growth. And remember, online and in-store retail are very different environments so, for Ocado, make sure you’re familiar with our website and have tried doing a shop with us online so you understand our full experience.

5. Do you have any other top tips you can share?

Remember all retailers are different. If you’re speaking to an online-only retailer, make sure your activation strategy is designed for online, not in-store.

Get to know your competitors. Become an expert in your category, get to know who you’re up against and how your brand stands out from the crowd.

Have a plan for the long term. Getting a listing isn’t the end of the journey, it’s the beginning. Look at how other brands activate with the retailer and have a plan for what suits your brand and customers best.

Finally, earlier this year, Ocado worked with Defa and SALSA to create the Routes to Retail guide. This is a fantastic document and can be found here.


Al Overton, former buying director, Planet Organic

Al Headshot

1. How should I approach multiple retail buyers?

Be specific to the retailer you are approaching. As a buyer I want you to have researched the store and range, and approach with a specific interest in that stores rather than a generic approach. After that it’s about charming persistence – all buyers are busy. When you reach out for the second, third or sixtieth time, tell them something new. Make each email specific and relevant, rather than just a repeat of the one before.

2. What information is key to a buyer in a new fmcg brand pitch?

Full ingredients list, image of the packaging, retail price, any certification and logistics – how would a buyer source it?

3. What’s going to cause a pitch to fail?

For Planet Organic, all artificial ingredients, no obvious point of difference to the product, terrible branding or ridiculous retail price.

4. What’s the best way to ensure a positive brand and supermarket buyer relationship?

All good relationships are based on mutual respect and benefit. Importantly, don’t dump one stockist just because you are excited about or working on another. You need to work to get a listing, but you also need to work to keep it.


Isobel Anstey, former Co-op buyer


1. Should I send food and drink product samples to a supermarket buyer?

The best way to catch a buyer’s attention is either by sending physical samples with a fact sheet or a very punchy and to the point email highlighting why this brand/product is the next big thing (always with pictures). A product should speak for, and sell itself – after all, that’s all the customer will be seeing on the shelf.

What data can back the potential growth of the product or what is an example rate of sale in a similar store? Buyers’ time can be extremely limited, so sometimes meetings/phone calls can be hard to achieve. Samples on desks get people’s attention in the office and talking about the products!

2. What key information do you need to know?

Key information I always like to know would be if it is selling in other retailers, how well it is working, what the target market is and what demographic of store it would work well in. Also, why is this product unique and, if at all possible, a guide price (can include minimum order quantities and route-to-market limitations), but a compelling cost offer would grab a buyer’s attention well.

3. What will instantly shut down a consideration?

Some products don’t offer anything different to what is already in store and ranged. If you are a competing brand, you need to make sure the buyer learns why yours is better than the current offer. Sometimes it is clear the email landing in the inbox is generic (even with incorrect names/retailers mentioned) – this shows a blanket approach. Retailers are all so different with unique propositions and goals that each email to each buyer needs to be personal.

4. What makes for a good ongoing relationship between brands and buyers?

Transparency and communication is something I always tried to establish with my suppliers and brands. Having previously worked in supply, it was important nothing was hidden and all problems were shared and worked through together for the best outcome – after all, the goals should be mutual. Learn what type of communication your buyer prefers. Is it Whatsapp, phone calls or email updates? Try to cater for their preferences.

5. What key things are fmcg buyers looking for in a new brand pitch?

Make it easy for your buyer to sell the brand to internal stakeholders. Supply good sales, data, unique propositions and any live above-and-beyond projects. If you’re yet to get established in a particular retailer, don’t be afraid to send a couple of emails before you get their attention – but avoid the essays.