Ross Carlin

Brands and buyers: Can we turn a relationship on the rocks into a match made in heaven?

BURNOUT, stress, and overwhelming busyness are just some of the issues facing buyers in the UK’s major retailers, as post-pandemic staff shortages and an extraordinary number of new F&B brands looking for a place on supermarket shelves has placed them under increased duress. With experience growing forward-thinking brands such as Shreddy and Muscle Food, managing director of The Good Food Group and founder of The Buyer’s Discovery Club, Ross Carlin shares his advice on how buyers can source new products via automated match-making technology – helping upcoming brands reach their fullest potential and land into the hands of increasingly busy buyers.

Suppliers to online supermarket giant Ocado recently bemoaned that an ever-changing ‘conveyor belt’ of buyers was causing them problems, with difficulty in creating a profitable, long-standing relationship with any one buyer. Former Ocado buyers spoke of a cut-throat culture and pressure to raise marketing costs with existing brands and find new brands.

The ecommerce boom, and the post-pandemic leaner workforce, has resulted in there being fewer buyers overall, all with higher targets and a greater workload. Often time and resource-poor, buyers need to make the right decisions quickly, picking profitable NPD out of a sea of exciting brands. It’s easier than ever for new brands to be created from the comfort of the founder’s home, using third-party selling methods like Etsy and Amazon and easily marketing themselves via social media, so we’re seeing huge growth in the number of new challenger brands that buyers have to select from.

While it’s excellent that new brands are entering the space more frequently, this makes it even more difficult for buyers to find what they’re looking for. A buyer simply won’t have the time to read every inbound email from a new brand, and needs to cut through the noise quickly with some form of filtration. There are some cutting-edge tools to help them, but brands need to do their bit to help buyers, making the buyer’s job easier and ultimately securing themselves a listing.

Getting under their skin
The target-led nature of a buyer’s role makes it increasingly difficult for brands and buyers to collaborate on a level playing field, however, an in-depth understanding of the buyer’s goals and challenges will go a long way in building a strong relationship.

As well as searching for innovative NPD, buyers are under pressure to perform to a range of other indicators, not limited to category margin, nutrition, and sustainability. From selecting only HFSS-compliant products to reducing plastic use across their category, a buyer’s concerns extend far beyond finding ‘the next best thing’. Brands might do well to consider how they’re supporting buyers in reaching these other goals.

How will your product contribute to the buyer’s financial goals? Is your product meeting their sustainability requirements? Are you helping them to overcome the challenges concerning them?

Adding value
Any added-value information you can bring to buyers will make their lives easier, and ultimately help your brand to get listed. From category insights to research and data, anything you know that might help buyers meet consumers’ latest requirements, follow trends and reach them on the right platforms will place you favourably against your competitors.

With conglomerates like Unilever and Johnson and Johnson monopolising the FMCG market, providing extensive category data and promoting their own products above all others, small brands can find it harder to be heard. However, offering additional information to support the buyer’s decision making process will help  brands build a better relationship and stand out among the crowd

Keeping in time
One of the best things brands can do to improve their relationship with buyers is to understand their deadlines. Don’t waste your time sending pitch emails at the wrong time; instead, find out when their range reviews are and target them at a time when NPD is a focus.

Now more than ever, retailers are looking for new UK-based suppliers so make sure you’re top of list by working with them to supply buyers with what they need, when they need it.

New technology
The way of the world has changed and brands and buyers alike need to utilise new technology to aid a seamless relationship. New automated platforms such as The Buyer’s Discovery Club can act as an extension of the buyer’s team, making it quick and effortless for them to sort through hundreds of new products in minutes, filtering by various factors with unbiased reviews to inform them. In the fast-paced world of FMCG, tools like this are invaluable in aiding the decision making-process.

Ultimately, like any relationship – open communication and understanding are the backbone of creating an effective brand and buyer relationship.

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