What should you consider if a retailer wants to take your product national?

Chris Grantham,
Consultant at Dragon (brand and design agency)

Entry into the supermarket environment for an unknown cake brand is a very tough proposition due to the strength of own label in this category, but in the current climate a small brand may have certain advantages.

In recent years own label has arguably been much stronger than branded offers in leveraging the trends affecting the category, principally premiumisation (fresher and more indulgent) and 'better for you'. The first step for the new entrant would be to compare their brand offer both in positioning and communication terms with their new much broader competitive set.

Without an established brand to rely on the big question from a trade point of view will be 'what value are you adding to the category'? The new entrant will need both striking shelf standout (potentially a category challenging design such as Innocent) and a strong product truth, which allows them to be better or different, e.g. the 'most natural' or 'most indulgent'. Other elements of the mix to leverage versus own label may be a food 'philosophy' and any area of perceived recipe competence.

In other respects the new entrant may be at an advantage. Many supermarkets are falling over themselves to stock genuinely small, local brands especially if they can introduce into a category more authentic, individualistic and artisan values.

Praveen Vijh,
co founder and director of Eat Natural

If you have a genuinely different, great tasting product, based on well founded principles with the potential for mainstream appeal, availability is critical to the success of your relationship with retailers.

Of critical importance is your logistics infrastructure. Is it geared up in a way that can meet individual, retailer requirements 24-7, so that every order is delivered on time, every time and in full?

There can't be any margin for error but you also can't do it all yourself, so having a dedicated team behind you, working closely with every retailer to meet these specific needs on an individual basis is vital. This close and intimate relationship also allows you to forward plan current and anticipated needs, so that you have capacity in place in advance to cope with any changes in demand.

Knowing how each retailer requires the product distributed is also important. Do they need it all delivered to one central distribution point or on a branch by branch basis? The former is obviously more preferable but can you cope with both scenarios?

Maintaining the integrity of the product as production increases is also vital to the long terms success of the brand. When we created the first Eat Natural bar almost a decade ago, we were very clear from the start that we didn't want to lose any of the integrity of this first bar by automating the process or falling into the trap of 'lazy manufacturing' - piling in lots of Frankenstein colours, flavourings or preservatives.

The taste of our bars had to come naturally from simple recipes and high quality ingredients. If we were to move from making a tray a day for friends and family, to supplying several thousands of trays as the business grew from small independents and health food shops to supermarkets, gyms, forecourts and coffee shops, the original recipe and the kitchen method of making the bars had to remain the same, there's no compromise.