Naturally Good Expo 2019

Trends, packaging and preparation: Aussie supermarket chiefs reveal secrets for food firms to get on shelf

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

Drake, Gordoun, Howe and Jones during the panel session at the Naturally Good Business Summit 2019.
Drake, Gordoun, Howe and Jones during the panel session at the Naturally Good Business Summit 2019.

Related tags Australia Retailers Supermarkets

An expert panel from major Australian supermarkets Drakes, Coles and The Natural Grocery Company have revealed that food firms who stay on trend, focus on packaging and come well-prepared will increase their chances of getting their products on store shelves.

Convening at the Naturally Good Business Summit 2019, the panel comprised of Drakes Supermarkets Assistant General Manager John-Paul Drake, Coles Local Commercial Category Manager, Special Projects Jessica Maree Gordoun and The Natural Grocery Company Chief Commercial Officer Joshua Howe.

The session was moderated by What’s New in Healthy Products Editor Lisa Crawford Jones.

Here are the key takeaways from the discussion:

Staying on trend

Howe highlighted gluten-free products as a massive part of the retail business, describing it having become more ‘mainstream’ than a ‘trend’.

“40% of all Drakes shoppers [go for] gluten-free – so much so that we thought of designating a specific aisle for these products, but the consumers requested us not to as they still wanted to shop for others in their families and friends too,”​ he said.

Drake concurred with this opinion, saying that product quality within this sector has improved in leaps and bounds in recent years.

“Many gluten-free breads now taste just like normal bread, and some customers who are not gluten-intolerant are also buying this because of the taste,”​ he said.

Apart from this, veganism was designated as a key category trend to look out for.

“Anything vegan is just [on a roll] – plant-based diets, plant-based meats, the keto diet, [catering to all of these is important],” ​added Howe.

“Trends move very fast, so it is crucial for us to be nimble and agile as a business, and [it is the same] for brand owners and manufacturers too.”

Gordoun added that within the plant-based sector, the chilled products market was currently saturated, and manufacturers would do well to look elsewhere to increase their chances of getting on-shelf in Coles Local.

“Ambient options like plant-based Spam and tuna are the [sorts of things] we recommend looking at more now.

“For the organic trend, this really matters in the fresh and dairy categories, and it is important to carefully consider product pricing when dealing in this space,”​ she added.

Packaging priority

Paying attention to packaging was also hailed as an important factor by Howe.

“Make sure to think through your packaging solution – it’s not just about the plastics, but also about the design,” ​he said.

“Consider what your product will look like when it’s on-shelf, and how you intend for it to stand out.”

According to Drake, making products stand out is a fine balance of several factors.

“It all comes down to timing, how it looks and how it tastes – this is crucial,”​ he said.

Preparation, preparation, preparation

The panel agreed that one of the main things that brands would do well to pay attention to is to be prepared, not only for making a product pitch but also in terms of having a process in place to assure stores that shelves will never look empty.

“It’s all about how products are restocked on-shelf,”​ said Drake.

“What we definitely do not want is for products to be sold out before [restocking takes place] and end up with empty shelves, so you have got to have a plan.

“[In this case], partnering with a distributor here may be a good option for some of you.”

Gordoun agreed with this, adding that it is also important to work with the right distributor if so.

“A distributor who places a lot of emphasis on the pricing of the product and not much else is not going to help your product get on-shelf.”

As for product pitches, she described a great pitch or ‘rangerview’ as one that has both a great, differentiated product and a presenter that is passionate about the product and its accompanying commercial opportunities.

“We also want to see how your product price compares to other competing brands, as well as in comparison with mainstream products, so it’s really important to be prepared with that knowledge,  [as well as] to know how you will be handling the logistics.”

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