How to prepare now to ensure your drinks brand is a success in 2021

By Richard Horwell, Brand Relations

- Last updated on GMT

How can you make your brand stand out to supermarket buyers? Starting now will help you get ahead. Pic:getty/lightfieldstudios
How can you make your brand stand out to supermarket buyers? Starting now will help you get ahead. Pic:getty/lightfieldstudios

Related tags: Soft drinks, Retailers

There's a lot of competition on beverage shelves, and soft drinks buyers do range reviews at the start of the new year. To be successful with your drinks brand in 2021 you need to start preparing now, writes Richard Horwell of F&B marketing and branding company Brand Relations, in this guest article.

There is a lot of competition and since COVID-19 there has not only been a surge in development of new healthy brands but also a massive demand for them.

Soft drinks buyers do their range reviews in January, February and March: so January is the time when you should be presenting your product to the major buyers for the key summer season.

Here are the important steps that will help you prepare and hopefully guide your brand to success.

Understand your brand

It is important you understand your brand, your target audience and the style/type of retailer which are best for your product.

This requires looking at the competition and what products buyers will remove to replace with yours. You must think about where your product will sit in store and how you will generate sales.

Visiting stores as part of your research is invaluable for this. While researching, you also want to determine if your target audience shops there, and will they pay the RRP you are suggesting?

These are the essential first steps that, in my experience, many brands overlook.

Draw up a target list of buyers

The biggest issue in getting a listing with your target retailer is understanding their shoppers needs. I’ve been told many times by buyers that “Our fridges or walls don’t stretch. We need to remove a brand to put yours in.”

How can they be sure your brand will replace the volume of the one they remove? How will consumers know your brand? Why will they cross the road to buy it? Questions like these need to be answered before you have any chance of getting a listing. 

Get digital ready

Before January you will need to make sure your website has all the answers to the questions a buyer is likely to ask. 

Just as importantly, you need activity on your social media.

'If your social media is looking a bit lacklustre, start building it now!'

More recently the bigger stores have employed social media experts to look around for the brands that have the most interest and followers, then they contact them for more details.

If your social media is looking a bit lacklustre, start building it now!

Presentation boxes

Buyers tell me they dislike it when a case of unsolicited product is delivered. They mostly have small offices so the last thing they want is to fill them with hundreds of free products.

Many brands also forget that buyers are consumers too. Like any consumer, the first impression is the most important impression. We suggest to clients that they create sample boxes, making their brand look like a beautifully presented gift. The box should look great and carry your branding and information.  A few years ago we created Christmas Hampers made up of all the brands we were working with.

The best response was from the buyer at Whole Foods, who said; ‘Thank you for sharing with us your innovation, highly appreciated, some other people I would expect this from are not doing half what you did! Thanks.’ Needless to say, we got the listings we wanted.

Quality not quantity

Many new brands want to go straight to the Multiples, looking for instant volume. But that is a mistake. Cut your teeth on the smaller ‘Premium’ retailers and build the brand.

Consumers in the likes of Whole Foods and Planet Organic are prepared to take the time to look for, and understand, new brands. Whereas the typical Tesco shopper is in there to grab the weekly shopping and get out.

Unfortunately, I have seen a lot of brands going into one of the big retailers on a trial and then after a few months they have been delisted. Once delisted by a larger retailer, none of the premium retailers are interested.

Persistence pays off

I have a lot of friends who are buyers, and they’re some of the most overworked people in this industry. Every time there are any cuts within the business the buyer is given more work to do. You need to catch their attention and apply some gentle pester-power.

I am not suggesting you harass them as that won’t get you anywhere, but don’t just give up when they don’t respond. Be patient and give them time.

A strong marketing plan

No buyer wants to stick their neck out for a new brand only to find that the product gathers dust. So, have a strong marketing plan, put it into action, and communicate it to the buyers. It will help give them confidence that if they stock your brand, it will actually sell.

Quarter one of a new year is the key time. What you achieve in those first three months will determine the outcome of the following nine. Your brand success in 2021 rests entirely on how you approach the new year.

Richard Horwell HR

About the author: ​Richard Horwell is the owner of Brand Relations, a specialist food and drink marketing and branding company based in London. Over the last 12 years, Brand Relations has been behind the launch and development of over 100 brands in the UK.

Richard has also built up and sold companies of his own in the Food and Beverage sector. He has over 30 years’ experience in marketing FMCG brands around the world, having lived and worked in the UK, USA, Australia and the Middle East.

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