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How do you talk to buyers? Even if the launch has gone well, you will continue to work with the buyer and there are some keys to keeping that relationship going smoothly. Here are a few tips:

  • Find out what they want

  • Understand their operating assumptions by department

  • Contact them (keep trying)

  • Create professional marketing materials

  • Be clear on your pricing; cover your costs and margins and plan for some surprises

In your ongoing wholesale relations, here are the key considerations:    

  1. Regular communications    

  2. Consistent product availability    

  3. Consistent quality

  4. Participation in marketing (demos, shelf-talkers, blurbs for newsletters)

  5. Review of merchandising and presentation in store(s)    

  6. Credit processing principles    

Key considerations

Buyers may need to be reminded to place an order, not because they don’t want your product but because they are busy juggling many demands at once. They tend to like to connect at the same time every week. You can ask them what the best time is to call. They may have specific ways they like to order. This could be by phone, fax, e-mail or sometimes in person. They may want a price sheet each week, or just to talk on the phone to get prices. They may not want you to call at all, but prefer to call you on their own schedule.

A good rule of thumb is to make an appointment to meet if you want to be sure to get time with the buyer. Many buyers are frustrated by vendors who drop in unannounced. Then the follow through: don’t offer product unless you are certain you can ship it. Don’t promise something you can’t do. Be clear about how and when the product should arrive. Let the buyer know if something has changed: does the truck have a flat tire and won’t get there until tomorrow? Let them know! They may have staff staying to meet you who will be happy to be able leave early, or get some other work done. Meet the pricing you stated, and don’t change it without discussing it first. You will be able to build loyalty with buyers through these strategies, and if something goes wrong, you are more likely to be able to work as partners to sort it out.

In this video, Eric Blondin of Three Forks Farm, formerly produce manager at Eat Local Sudbury, a retail co-op store in Sudbury, talks about how you can achieve best results with buyers.

In this video, Paul Sawtell of 100 km Foods describes how producers can work well with distributors, and the approach at 100 km Foods to working with local producers.

Selling to restaurants: In this video Chef Carl Heinrich from Richmond Station talks about his commitment to local food, and how producers can work well with chefs.

It is good to understand the market from the point of view of retail as well as production. Although you can’t tell a retail buyer how to market your product, you can make suggestions and offer to help with signs, in-store presentations, etc. The following webinars will help you understand what works at retail, and to be able to evaluate what you see when you see your product in a store. If the product is not selling at the rate you hoped, this material can help you to know if there are reasons at the retail level that the product is not selling, or if it might be something else like price or quality. This merchandising training is relevant for markets everywhere, including farm markets, and can be shared with staff as part of their training.

Grant MacKinnon, formerly of the Big Carrot and also providing training for customers of Pfenning’s Farm, offers tips and strategies on produce handling and merchandising, including placement and displays.

Meg Petipas is co-owner of Dandelion Foods in Almonte, Ontario. In this webinar, she discusses merchandising, end-caps, special promotions and store placement in several categories.


 The Produce Retailer and Fresh Plaza can help you keep up with trends in produce retailing.


At the end of this module you should have

  • launched or prepared to launch your product

  • prepared an action plan for at least one year of development and marketing

  • celebrated your achievements! (Congratulations!)

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