I recently attended a local public gluten-free fair with over 60 vendors. I’d say 75% were from Colorado, while the rest were from all over the continental U.S. There were some large brands represented, but most were small companies and the company owners were working their respective tables.
I spoke to a lot of them that I was not familiar with and was most interested in their sales and marketing efforts. Here are three different strategies I walked away with.
Your own storefront. I was actually surprised at the number of companies that had their own storefronts or were opening a retail location. They had multiple flavor/ingredient variations of a core product or multiple core product groups, so it made sense that they could have a store front with their various products. One sells products from other companies in their category. This is a great way to provide variety in your product selection and maximize your product inventory per square foot of selling space. This company also sells product from direct competitors and rents their production space to competitors as well. If you are going to cannibalize your own sales, I guess why not take a retail markup or charge rent for use of your production equipment. It is working for this company.
Sell to restaurants. This would depend upon your product. It would include distributors to restaurants or you can sell direct. I don’t know what the sales potential of this channel is compared to retail, which I do know, but one company said it is their main sales channel and works well for them.
Multi-level marketing. One company had created a whole set of different food products and its strategy was to use multi-level marketing to distribute and sell. The schtick also included re-selling many other durable kitchen products (cutting knives, for example) in addition to its food products.