Brazen Roundtable

Food: Getting on the Shelves

Last week’s Brazen Immersion event included so much great insider info, that we are filling this recap with tons of tips and advice from the speakers and making it available to members only! We want you to make sure our members who weren’t able to make it hear some of the great content shared at the event. Lots more exciting events coming up soon! (Don’t forget to check out the “Events” link on your Brazen Member Dashboard to register for future gatherings!)


Our “Food: Getting on the Shelves” Brazen Member event featured Martha Ulhorn, President/Owner of Gourmet to Go and La Bonne Bouchee Wholesale Bakery, and Olivia Kelvin, CEO of Soozie’s Doozies


We gathered at Lemon Gem in the Grove (super cute kitchen goods store! Check them out!) to hear what these women had to share about their experience as food entrepreneurs. 




Getting on the grocery shelves seems impossible. How do you get started when you’re in the early stages?


Olivia sent blind emails to buyers requesting meetings, often finding their email addresses in press releases for other products! You might get their attention of you lead with what is unique about your product.


“Even if you have a great product, if its too expensive, you’re not going to sell enough volume to stay on the shelf. You may have to lose money at first until you get volume”


How do you make the decisions of what and where to sell (especially when considering adding product lines)?


“The market tells you. You have to stay fresh and respond to what your customers are looking for,” says Martha. This means you really have to know your customers. 


What is the best way to get reliable feedback?


Face to face – you have to know your customers and ask them directly. Social media has become a good place to get feedback from customers, but remember: you don’t have to pay attention to every good or bad review. One customer is just that – one customer.


The grocery industry seem to be changing, with online retailers and smaller specialty stores, how do you plan for that?


“It’s getting harder to introduce new products as online ordering increases because people buy what they know.” You have to be focused on your promotion schedule, and Olivia told us that studies have found that even just $1 off will capture a first time user. 


How do you figure out pricing?


Insider tip from Olivia: There are firms that will test pricing for you via mobile test that basically ask users “how much would you pay for this product?”


Can you grow without being in retail grocery stores? (in grocery stores you have to be able to get your prices so low!)


One of our event attendees was Anne Croy (A Brazen and Power Growth Group member) who is the founder of Banner Road Bakery Company. Anne chimed in with an answer to this one! She said the best way to grow your online business is by getting mentioned in a publication. And how do you do that? You have to give it away to get people to try it and write about it!


Where did you get the confidence to “go big”?


Olivia knows all about this one with her product on grocery shelves around the country! She says you have to go big with product because you need the volume. Higher volume reduces all of your other costs around ingredients, production, packaging, etc. This is why retail grocery products often require investment upfront, because there is upfront loss to get to a higher volume. Starting in specialty stores can let you get to a profit position to reinvest in achieving volume.


Other tips:

– It is safer to sell in stores with their own warehouse system – you have a bit more control over spoilage costs that get charged back to you.

– “Your relationship with individual buyers is so important, they can champion your product” -Olivia

– Grocery stores will sometimes waive the shelf slotting fees for WBE/MBE certified businesses. And its much easier to get certification when you’re small, because you probably know where all of the necessary documentation is. It can be much more complicated when you are larger in size and more likely to have to hire lawyers to help you at that point.

– Grocery retail is cutthroat!


Looking for packaging resources? Here are some suggestions from the speakers:

– (containers)
– (packaging)
– (labels)


Martha and Olivia both left us with some parting advice. Martha says to “have more money than you think you’ll need. And focus on service.” And Olivia suggests that to “make sure you’re offering something different, and market to your customers around that difference. 

Photos by Jonathan Veith