Maintaining and building brand equity in the current grocery climate is a conundrum even the biggest brands have to face up to.

Some major grocery retailers are turning their focus inwards, piling heavyweight investment into advertising and in-store PoS that reinforces their discount positioning and own-label ranges. Retailers, consumer press and online money-saving communities talk openly of how consumers should consider own label and discounter brands to fit their tightening budget.

We’ve also seen the cost of raw materials rising sharply over the past 18 months or so, meaning that the squeeze really is at both ends of a brand’s business. With every penny needing to achieve a return on investment, it’s no surprise brand owners are scrutinising every area of their business to look at new ways of adding value, by doing things more effectively and efficiently.

Everything should be up for review. Are you working as smartly as we should be? Are you getting the best rates on freight and distribution? And how are you managing cashflow? With everyone feeling the pinch, more focus and controls are required to manage administration and credit control.

With bank ownership very much now a national concern, credit is increasingly hard to come by. So if a brand is going to grow in these challenging times, they need to look for strategies that take fixed costs out of a business, and look creatively at opportunities for sales growth.

To my mind, every channel has its role to play, but the value of the impulse and convenience channel cannot be overlooked. Yes, it’s a fragmented and fast-changing sector, but with the right pack formats, reach and resource, the opportunities for growth are tangible.

As such, I challenge blue-chip brand owners to consider the role of outsourcing. And although the thought of handing over your “crown jewels” to a third party may seem contrary, I’d argue you can turn this way of thinking on its head.

By setting other people to work on some of your business basics, you are actually released to play to your strengths, such as consumer marketing and product development. Outsourced sales teams have expertise by both channel and trading category, with well established customer relationships. Long gone are the days of brokerage being seen as a second-class career option. Today’s outsourced sales teams have best-in-class training, are results-focused and have access to leading-edge information systems to allow even greater levels of reporting. With this comes measurable accountability at every step.

The business support benefits are there too. Challenge your sales & marketing partner to work on creating and implementing a fully tailored sales and end-to-end logistics solution. Using consolidated deliveries with other brands is not only more environmentally aware, but business-efficient too. And financially there is much to gain from putting others in charge of your credit control, by replacing piecemeal accounts collection with one timely payment.

With such huge pressures on margins, I predict that as the year progresses some of the very biggest of household names will look to outsourcing to deliver for them – and in more ways than one.

Peter Butler is the managing director of SHS Sales & Marketing.