How To Distribute Food Products With Ruthless Efficiency

December 12, 2014

Food is among the fastest perishable products and the best way to ensure minimum wastage while sending it to c-stores is to have an efficient supply chain. It helps deliver food within the shortest possible time to consumers. To get your food products out on the shelves of stores is not the end of distribution, you also need to create a marketing support to compete against existing products in the market. Whether you are distributing food products to restaurants, convenience stores or sending out cooked meals to offices and homes you have to first understand the needs of your customers and the distribution structure that will be used to send these products to the consumer. Distribution channels differ based on the end customers and type of food product that is being sold making it difficult for firms to apply same strategy for everyone.

To distribute food products in a profitable manner manufacturers and food distributors have to work aggressively and in coordination with each other. It ensures that the product reaches the end customer in minimum possible time and in edible condition. Every distribution channel has several challenges with regard to breaking the bulk and distributing it into small packages which can be picked up by convenience stores, grocery chains, food dealers or restaurants. To distribute food with least possible addition to overall price marketers have to keep middlemen to a minimum and standardize packaging to reduce wastage.

Effective distribution methods for food products

Direct distribution channel – Within this system the product is directly delivered to the consumer and only one channel is applicable. The distribution channel is applied when a consumer’s requirement is unique or has specific technical requirements so product is directly delivered to them. Sometimes a few local customers’ demand is so large that manufacturer’s production capacity is exhausted in meeting it and there is no need to use extensive distribution channels.

Consumer markets – These are one stop shops for producer/manufacturer of food product to sell their produce to several convenience stores and grocery store chains or food distributors directly. In these markets most intermediaries are representatives of retailers and manufacturer can negotiate directly with buyers to sell their product without using intermediaries and other distribution channels.

Producer to wholesaler and end user through one step channel – In this distribution channel the wholesaler takes ownership of goods that are made by manufacturer and is solely responsible for distributing it to right channels. The wholesaler has to work with hotels, restaurants and other large institutions like offices, hospitals and schools to distribute directly to them. You can find wholesalers here

Agent/Broker to industrial user

These people work as representatives of one or more manufacturers and do not take direct ownership of products, but manage to set up relationship between them and retailers and carry out marketing services. The agent here becomes the sole sales force for producer/manufacturer and helps them expand their clientele to unrepresented markets. Market coverage is managed for intensive distribution and extensive distribution. You can find a list of brokers here

Warehouse distributors – These distributors directly move products from manufacturers to super stores and large c stores along with specialty and natural stores. They have large storehouses to store large variety of food products and groceries ranging from dry to frozen and other sundries. They largely deliver to store directly and only drop the produce and do not undertake any merchandising.

Food service distributors – They specialize in serving food products to direct consumers like restaurants, Delis, schools, hospitals, and other institutions. They undertake deliveries only on confirmed orders to the end consumers at a predetermined price. These distributors ensure that product is delivered to consumers in the exact condition and quantity they required.

Selecting an ideal distribution channel for your food products – Before your select a distribution channel for your products it is ideal to develop a list of potential customers for your products. This will help you design the shortest possible distribution channel depending on the perishable quality of your products. In the procedure of planning out the distribution network of your food products you need to understand the needs of your customer and their tastes so you can present it in the best way possible.

Distribution through food cooperatives – To remove the middleman and get direct access to food buyers of convenience store chains, grocery store chains and food brokers, manufacturers of farm produce and dairy products set up co-operatives to directly work as a combined unit. These cooperative societies will bring together farmers who will collate their produce and use single distributor to sell it to all stores in their locality. By taking on this procedure farmers can eliminate distributors and sell their produce directly to stores and slowly increase their outlay to neighboring locations depending on demand.

Flexible distribution models for food – Distributors of food products have to be flexible enough to understand changing needs of people so that they can pass the information to producers and meet the market requirements. If the distributor is working with multiple customers their product categories and product lines can be small or large depending on the number of manufacturers or wholesalers they are working with at a particular point of time. Growth of specialty food stores and fast food outlets has increased which have almost become synonymous with convenience stores. These fast food chains and small cafés have helped increase demand for ready to eat food items and have created a new niche of nutritious quick serve meals which can be picked up from stores and eaten on the move.

Food products have been distributed for several centuries now and with growth in technology and communication it is easy to understand market demand and build successful distribution strategy. The key now for food distributors to sustain themselves throughout the year is to offer products like dairy, meat along with both perishable and non-perishable items which are available throughout the year. It will help distributors and manufacturers to stay in touch with retailers at all time and build a strong and lasting customer vendor relationship.