The Importance of Getting New Food Products ‘Retail Ready’

In Edible-Alpha® podcast #60, Tera catches up with consultant Alli Ball, creator of the Retail Ready online course and the Food Biz Wiz podcast. A former grocery buyer for Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco, Alli struck out on her own in 2014 to follow her true passion: helping producers get into retail.

At Bi-Rite, Alli had the bandwidth to nurture emerging food brands, helping them hone their offerings to maximize sales. But as she and Tera discussed, most grocery buyers don’t have this much capacity. So when an entrepreneur pitches a product, they often hear a quick “no” and receive little if any constructive feedback. But this doesn’t necessarily mean the product is a dud. Oftentimes, entrepreneurs are rejected because they don’t know the proper way or time to pitch to buyers—or how to speak buyers’ unique language.

This is where Alli comes in. She coaches producers on how grocery buyers think, how to pitch effectively and how to boost their wholesale business. Along with one-on-one consultations, she offers her 12-module Retail Ready online course, which covers everything from identifying target audiences to crafting effective sell sheets to working with brokers and distributors. Students move through the course material at their own pace while also participating in biweekly live group chats with Alli.

For additional support, current students and Retail Ready graduates join a Facebook group, where they can network, post questions and solve problems together. Then if brands wish to continue working with Alli one-on-one after completing Retail Ready, they have that opportunity. She also hosts the weekly Food Biz Wiz podcast, which delves into common challenges her students encounter and sometimes features PR experts, brokers, financial gurus and other industry stakeholders. Recently, Alli launched the Food Biz Wiz Quarterly Planner to help food companies set and achieve their business goals.

To date, some 250 brands have taken Retail Ready and there are numerous success stories. But as Alli pointed out, she gives producers the tools to succeed at retail, but they have to do the work. Those who’ve really dug into the program and taken action are the ones that land on store shelves—and fly off of them.

A whole lot goes in to getting new food products “retail ready,” and entrepreneurs often don’t know what they don’t know. Tapping into resources like Alli’s can make the difference between an awesome product that never reaches consumers and an awesome product that people love and purchase again and again.