Best Channels To Distribute Food Products To Convenience Stores

November 19, 2014

How many of us bother to consider how a particular food product came to the shelf of convenience store every time we go to buy our usual grocery items? Some of us do not even know where the regular brands of food or beverage products we consume are grown or processed before they reach our tables. It is the efficiency of a food distribution channel which brings fresh products from farms and processing centers to your nearest convenience stores and grocery stores. With the availability of specialized marketing channels and growth of wholesale distributors it is rare for a producer or manufacturer to directly sell to customers.


Distribution of food products requires special care as the can get spoilt or become unfit for consumption if prescribed safeguards related to their storage and delivery are not followed. Food products are not like cosmetics, clothes, electronics or fancy accessories which can be kept for years in the store without worry about quality degradation. As different food products require varied storage and distribution measures, wholesaler distributors of food products generally follow a specific path of distribution and delivery for them so that they reach customers before expiry. As a manufacturer of dry rations or ready to cook food products you have to establish a partnership with the right dealer or distributor who understands your business and the vital need for quick delivery to right customers.


By the time a food products travels from manufacturer to retailer and customer’s table it passes through hands of several people who would access its price, quality and packaging to gauge its marketing potential. Several products never make it to convenience store or grocery store shelves and remain limited to local farmers markets or traders market as the manufacturers are unable to find a profitable way of distributing them. The perishable nature of food products and the care that needs to be taken to preserve, package and distribute them makes it a specialist’s task.


Distribution cycle of retail food products and beverages from manufacturer to retailers


Market testing – Once a product is ready and all necessary permits have been obtained for marketing, manufacturers test the product by giving it out as a sample in local farmer’s market or trade fairs to see reaction of people toward it, or hiring a firm like the “Checkstand Program” who can immediately push your product into convenience stores It also helps them get in touch with local single store retailers and traders who are ready to try new products. Depending on the reaction of people and friendly advice of these traders you can make changes wherever required and start promotional activities.


Hiring a broker or distributor – Most food manufacturers lack marketing skills and are dependent on specialists like agents and brokers to get in touch with convenience store chains or standalone grocery stores. To have a national level distribution, manufacturers need to work with wholesale distributors and convenience store distributors who have the right skills and contacts to get their products into stores.


Securing a foothold with retailers – During these times, having an informative convenience store directory is handy as it gives contact details of top decision makers of small and large c-store chains and distributors. The distributor can take you to retailers but you as a manufacturer have to convince them about the utility of your product and how the retailer can make profits by selling it. Present a research based report about other manufacturers in this category and tell the retailer how your product compares to them.


Type of food distributors based on products and work style


  • Gourmet or specialty food distributors – They generally distribute dry groceries, condiments and spices to natural supermarkets, specialty gourmet stores, c-stores and also general grocers. Here is good resource


  • Food brokers – They work like brokers in any other area of product distribution and deal with several manufacturers at the same time. Their main function is to create links between retailers and manufacturers so that distribution channels can be discussed and finalized. The charge a fee from both parties and generally with one or two kinds of food products. You can find a ton of them at


  • Rack jobbers – They distribute both fresh food and dry food items in large volumes. They perform full in-store merchandising and sales within particular geographical area.


  • Wholesalers – They supply general merchandise, groceries and food products to convenience stores. They distribute food products across a large geographical area which has to be stored in dry, liquid, frozen or refrigerated condition. You can find over 1200 of them at


  • Food service distributors – These convenience store distributors are specialists in delivery and distribution of food products and also manufacture a few ready to eat products themselves. Besides distributing to c-stores and grocery shops they also distribute food items to restaurants, hotels, fast food outlets, schools and hospitals. You can find over 2500 of them at


  • Soft drinks and beverage distributors – These products need to be spread across a wide geographical area to be profitable as consumers are rarely loyal to one brand and will go for the next competitor if their choice is not available in the convenience store they walk into. Manufacturers for soft drinks and beverages in general, use parallel distribution avenues to market their products across the nation and make it reachable to customers at a competitive price.


  • Private distribution channels – Large retailers have their own distribution centers, which act as warehouse centers for manufacturers who deliver directly to these distribution centers. The distribution networks of these retailers then distribute the products to their convenience stores depending on requirement. This distribution technique is very profitable for both manufacturer and retailer as they have eliminated the distributor and have pocketed the profits.


Always target your product towards customers tastes as all your efforts to bring it to buyers will be a fruitless exercise if it is not a hit. Food production and marketing is as difficult as distribution and pricing can sometimes spell success or doom for a good food product even after crossing all these milestones. Experts sometimes advise food product manufacturers to stick to local markets to keep their margins low and establish reputation among retailers and consumers. Once retailers recognize the potential of a good product they will come forward to negotiate price of distribution to other branch stores in the area.