Quirky and wacky isnt sufficient……

…..so said Milena, Head of future brands origination at Sainsburys at an amazing Table Crowd Dinner I attended last night, where she was giving a talk on how to get a listing with her team

So what WILL get you on the shelves of part of the Future Brands opportunity

1. Differentiated product offer

You really need a point of difference, the USP that everyone talks about.  Sainsburys are looking towards the future brands team to deliver innovation so as a disruptive start up you need to be the “innovation engine” as Milena describes it.  Both at the beginning when you are getting the listing but also once you are on the shelf – you need to keep evolving and have a vision for that evolution

2. Affordability for the consumer

Sainsburys is mass market and so they need a product that is offering good value to their customers – that doesn’t mean it’s the cheapest. For example, Charlie Bighams is a good £1 more than the own label BUT it is in the ballpark.  Double the average price wont get you a listing. The biggest source of failure for a disruptor brand is where the brand doesn’t fit the pricing positioning

3. Affordability for the retailer

There is a broad breadth of margins for different categories which is driven by a number of factors not discussed during this presentation and the buyers should be able to give you some guidance on what you need to hit.

Sainsburys understands that sometimes when you are a start up volumes are low and therefore prices are high but as the brand establishes itself then the margin needs to be there for the retailer.  Sainsburys commodity is space and so your product needs to make more money than the product coming out

4. Exclusivity

Sainsburys want to differentiate their offer from other retailers.  So, to be a future brand, you have to be exclusive from the other mainstream UK grocers and discounters

It doesn’t have to be forever just a time bound exclusivity. In most cases however you have to have sold somewhere before to establish that there is a demand for your product. 

5. Brand standout

When you designed your brand packaging was it to sell online, off a farmers market stall or on the shelf of Sainsburys next to brand leader x??  If you want to be part of the Future brands story, your brand has to have physical standout – the customer has 2 or 3 seconds to make a decision so it needs to jump off the shelf (in a good way)

However you may be bringing something completely new.  Creating new categories is fascinating and something Sainburys are very interested it but as would need to have a whole bay it is not easy to implement but there is a team that is testing propositions eg E.g. lunchtime snacking aisle.  So if you do have a great idea for a cross category shop do get in touch with her – opportunities exist to set up trial in 30 stores.

6. Know how to work with the buyer

It is not easy to get in front of the buyer so you need to be creative – buyers can have or 100 brands so frankly you are not a significant part of their life!! So make every second count – tailor your pitch. Be punchy and keep it as short as possible – the buyer will love you if you schedule an hour and finish in 15 minutes!

And listen to what they say. They are experienced. They know their stuff.

As the brand grows, recognize that data is king!  You may not be able to buy Nielsen data but go and stand at the fixture and ask customers what they think – learn what is working and what isn’t on a store by store basis.  It is invaluable insight to help you keep a listing, identify an issue which might easily be solvable eg packaging not working, wrong outer case size or display unit that is not easily understood by staff and gets thrown away.

7. Timing

Timing is critical. There are two ways to get on the shelf – either as a 1 in 1 out or as part of a full refresh which are held less frequently.  Range reviews have to happen in the whole store estate so the team need to be mindful how often they do that, and not just change for change’s sake

And what do you get in return?  Brands get a great deal in terms of launch and ongoing support, and can include things like Nectar data, branded shelf talkers, feature on sainsburys.co.uk. They also get dedicated Future Brands team point of contact throughout the process, which can help with tailoring the pitch to the buyer, onboarding, etc.

And for how long?  Well there is no hard and fast rule here, and they take that on a case by case brand by brand basis.  They aim for mutual benefit from selling new brands, and are understanding that it takes a while to establish a brand. That is why they provide the support from future brand team

And finally what is working so far?  It is early days for the team but they have a number of successes across categories – restaurant collaborations, innovation in beer, snacking and vegan products not just for veganuary

But, as Milena did say Sainsburys are not the only place to sell your products.  She suggested sometimes a brand is not ready and there are other innovative ways of getting your products into customers hands such as Airbnb, online sales etc.  Your route to market is critical for the successful growth of a brand. This is something I can help you with so get in touch if you want to build your own quirky but successful retail journey!!

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