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Quirky and wacky isnt sufficient……

… 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 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!!

Ditch New Years Resolutions Day – or How to stay on track!!

Two weeks ago I wrote the shiny article on how to create an amazing 2019.  I had learnt I need to set boundaries, take on less, work less, be more productive.  I was moving from surviving to thriving!

Within a week, I was back working the weekend, had given away lots of free time and my builder who is helping renovate my house has wriggled out of finishing what he is contracted to do…like the last one!  So I am sitting here thinking about why has it gone a little awry?

I have done great things also – saved a client £14k by spending more wisely and finding different ways to achieve the same results, got two new accounts for one client and created a new and profitable direction for another.  So it’s going ok.

But how can I get it to go better?  Well Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are good behaviours. Depending on which research you read, it takes roughly 28 days to form a habit – so if you are falling off the wagon at day 17then you haven’t given yourself a chance.  Go back to first principles, read the goals you set in week 1, reinforce the anchors and don’t give yourself a hard time.  Keep going!

Or do what I have done and get a mentor.  My mentor Natalie Sisson is helping me formulate my business goals – she is an awesome motivator and we have already had some great breakthroughs.  But the other thing is…. she is there in my corner!  She is there to support me, give me great advice and tips on how to create and achieve my business goals  and doesn’t judge – when I fall off the wagon and to help me create the success habits of 2019

So maybe you need some help too to stay on track.  You are probably expecting me now to say “And I am the one to help you do it!” 

But I might not have the right experience, not the right style or be  just too expensive with everything else you need to spend funds on.  Try these:

  • Are you under 30?  Then take a look at Princes Trust – they have some amazing mentors and all for free –
  • Fancy getting a bit of Richard Branson help? Ok maybe not him – check out Virgin Start up team –  I do volunteer work for Virgin and they are great and also offer loans
  • If you are not already a member of the awesome facebook group food hub – get stuck in!!  Also take a look at their mentorship programme – I offer a free session through this process and its great to road you’re your mentor!
  • Look into getting funding for coaches – a couple of my clients has some funding to pay for my services!!

I hope this has been helpful in giving you some top tips to not fall off the wagon or be part of Ditch New years resolution day!   We are in it for the whole of the year and 2019 WILL be a success – give me a call if you need help getting back on that wagon!


Manifest 2019 success

I have been having a bit of a reflective break over the festive period and studying some great books including Tony Robbins, Denise Duffield Thomas and Janet Murray to think about how I am going to take my business and those of my clients forward in 2019.

I have already declared that I am moving from surviving to thriving and taking my clients with me.  So, in the planning days before everything goes crazy again, why don’t you take an hour out of your day to think about how to get ready for success in your business.

1. Move on from the past

Has your business been as successful as you would like it to be in 2018?  Maybe it has and you are sitting there with the glass of champagne as you have sold out for mega millions.  But if like most of my clients you are sitting there wondering why you didn’t hit the sales and profit goals you were striving for.  What are the excuses?

Did you not find the manufacturer you needed?

Did it take longer to bring the new products to market (they always take longer!)

Did the retailer presentation not quite meet the market and the retailer said no?

Did the retailer presentation go brilliantly but they never replied?

Are you not hitting the sales on a weekly basis?

Was the weather too hot, too cold, too wet or something else?

Did you not get the investment raise you wanted?

Did you get the raise and you don’t like the investors you have got on board?

Or is the business still a figment of your imagination because you just haven’t got started yet!!

The list is endless but you have to put all that behind you and start with a clean slate – 2019 will be different and so we need to be different in our approach.  So I am not going to go all woowoo on you but make a list of what went well and what didn’t hit the mark and look for any common themes – what might you do differently in 2019?  And then throw the mistakes away and start with a shiny new enthusiastic you – I was exhausted by the end of 2018 – had given more than my all and there was nothing left.  So learning for me – set boundaries, take on less, work less, be more productive – you will have your own list!

2. Be clear on what you want for 2019

Yup that does mean setting goals but make them SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely……. and not going to kill you!!! 

I had smart goals for last year and some I achieved and some I missed but also managed to have high blood pressure, mega migraines and not as much fun as I seem to be having in my Facebook life (as with most people!).  Why?  Because I set the wrong goals – I set financial goals, business targets but totally missed the ones about taking care of my well being, growing as a person and making time for relationships with friends and family.   But also I didn’t work out the way to reach my goals ie just working harder and harder as opposed to smarter. 

So if you want to get that Sainsburys listing – it could be worth £0.5m to you – so think about how you could achieve that effectively – buy the compelling Kantar data, work with a category specialist to build the story, develop the products that are perfect for them

3. Woo Woo ways of creating success

Remember why you first wanted to have this food business or to be the sales director or MD of an amazing food brand?  Were you excited at the prospect of seeing your product on the shelf – it IS truly an amazing feeling and my favourite!

Someone wrote on a post I put on Linked in this week that you need to have relentless passion and love for what you do to carry you through the bad times.  Well he is partly right – we do need to have passion for our why but that can be too broad and we can fall out of love with out business but still need to keep going.  So if you have a passion for each goal it makes it easier as does creating of what NLP people call anchors to keep us going.  Creating an anchor is relatively straightforward.  So for each of your key goals this year, create an anchor of positivity – want to win a retailer account?  Think of how amazing that would be – write down all the reasons why you want to achieve this goal and do an anchoring exercise – try this quick one minute video

Then next time you cannot get hold of the buyer, get rejected, get delisted – go back to your anchor for renewed energy.  Bit woowoo?  Try it!

Also don’t sabotage your bigger goal.  One of my goals is to reach an income level as a business mentor – yet I do so much for free. This is effectively sabotaging my income goal by using my only resource – time. Now the marketeers would say, you are giving for free because it will pay back in additional work – it is part of the promotional plan.  But actually a lot of the free stuff I did last year, did not pay back in new business and cost me a lot of money in travelling, time and effort.

So think about your key goals and how you could be sabotaging them by the small stuff. Over the next week, challenge every action you take – is this taking me to my next goal?  IF not then don’t do it!  Whether it is For every action over the next.  Don’t give free samples unless you can see the benefit.  Don’t

4. Make it happen!

So this sounds like the familiar, easy bit, right?   Anyone in business has taken a goal and broken it down into actions.  But what are the actions that push your boundaries?  What have you thought about that will create a bigger better food business but you daren’t do it?  For example take on a full time sales or marketing person?  That scares you financially – you are going to have to find £3-4k per month to pay for them.  But what if they get you that £500k retailer account – which is going to deliver £10k profit a month.  REALITY CHECK – in my experience, the minimum leadtime for getting a retailer listing is 6 months – but allow 18!

So then dream a bit bigger – look to raise some capital to pay for the sales person and you can add in a marketeer and your business is on its way to great things.  Make your bigger goals happen with bigger actions

5. Reinforce success

When I typed this last point – I started by writing “celebrate success” but actually that is not really how this manifesting goes.  You need to REINFORCE success – use every little achievement and feel good moment to reinforce your anchors from point 3. Capture them in a spreadsheet, on your white board in the office – somewhere you will see them to reinforce how you are heading for your goal. 

And don’t beat yourself up about the bad decisions, the wasted actions and the non goal achieving stuff that got in the way.  Write that down too – and see if there is a pattern – why do you get distracted.  And then forgive yourself and forge on ahead!

So I am off for my first goal achieving meeting of 2019.  If you like the sound of this approach for making a success of the new year, give me a shout and we can see how I can work with you to ensure that in 2019 you thrive not just survive

Happy New Year!


07811 942054


Alternatives to Dragons Den

I have been speaking to various people who have been lucky enough to get on Dragons Den and the coverage and uplift for the brand has been amazing. But either they have not received an offer of funding OR the % equity requested has been so high that it is not necessarily the best move for the business. So what alternatives are there – have a look at the list below of the 5 top ones around at the moment


  1. The Hatchery

I have personally put three clients in touch with The Black Farmer, Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones

His approach is very no nonsense – says what he things but also very insightful. They are looking for early start ups who are still in the ideas stage.

There should be funds available plus mentoring from The Black Farmer and his team who are a formidable lot!

  1. Grocery Accelerator

I have had some experience with working with Rob and Paddy and the team here and their boardroom sessions are powerful!

They have a strong offer enabling food companies to grow through securing investment but you do need to invest in their programme first to get your company investor ready. They have some awesome skilled people on the team – and also access to VYPR which enables SMEs to research their brands and create strong selling stories by knowing their consumers better.


  1. Big brands looking for little disruptors

Here we have thre big boys looking for inspiration and speed and flexibility of the little boys.

– PepsiCo are looking for upto 10 foodie start ups (less than £5m turnover) who can offer amazing nutritional products to the pan European space. This year’s program deadline is June 11 2018 but am sure they will run annually

There is a grant on offer of €20,000, usual mentoring but from the might of Pepsico expertise (great for thinking like a big brand) and the winner gets €100,000

– Kraft Heinz

As with Pepsico, you get access to the company’s wealth of expertise and knowledge plus investment and mentoring on how to get additional funding and support

– Diageo

Ditto with Diageo although they are looking for alcoholic and non alcoholic brands


  1. VBites Ventures

Heather Mills (famous for being previously married to Paul McCartney) has founded Vbites and just bought a factory up in the north east to produce snacks.

She is looking for SMES who produce plant-based products and meat alternatives and will provide investment, scale and manufacturing support from the new factory and her expertise and mentoring


  1. Square One Foods

This is a more classic accelerator program run by the guys at Spitz who are an Austrian food producer. Looking for broad breadth of innovative food and drink SMEs, they offer seed capital in return for 15-25% of the company. They also give access to their partnerships with retailers, manufacturing resources (as required) etc etc

And finally if you are interested in getting a grant – there are not many of those around! – try applying for the Small Business grant. They offer £5000 per month to businesses with turnover of over £50k. Ollies olives won in April so worth taking a look!


I hope you have found this overview useful and let me know of any other schemes you are aware of to help us all build a recipe for success.


Do you have mega bucks to burn?

I have just received a quote via a client for design work for £23k – granted it will deliver the logo, packaging design, artwork and a basic website but can it be done more cheaply and just as efficiently for a similar price? Another client is paying £1200 a month for PR which is £14k per year – at a net profit of 5% for the company that PR would need to generate incremental £280k to cover its costs.

So how do we avoid burning cash when researching new products, designing our brands or promoting them? Well here’s my top 5 suggestions for saving money:

  1. Size of market assessment for category reviews

Did you know that the British library holds thousands of reports that you can access for free such as Mintel which covers most food markets and has a myriad of data on the size of market, who is the consumer, competitors etc. You do have to physically go to the library which is next to St Pancras station but do the maths – pay £3500 for a report or buy an off peak train ticket and go do your own!

Here’s the link –

  1. Do your own market testing

Last year, I was asked by a major UK produce company to write a category strategy for Tesco Czech and Slovakia. They were not happy with the research they had already commissioned so we did it ourselves. Wrote the brief, set up the camera and recorded our own focus groups! And it worked really well. I have also done at fixture research asking customers what they thought of products – you do need to get permission from the retailer to do this though!

If you have a bit more money to spare, Tessa Stuart ( will do it for you so worth checking her out. Or for testing prices, brand concepts or consumer reactions with over 30000 UK consumers, VYPR is a great method. They have tied up with Grocery accelerator to offer a great deal on research – hop over to the website – or give me a ring and I can explain more how it works

  1. Reasonably price design work

I have a client who used 99 designs ( who did all her design and artwork for £700. It does need a decent design brief to ensure you get what you need – I have a template if you need one so just email me!

I also did my current website for £350 – I have to be honest it did take a lot of time investment from me and a very clear vision on what I wanted but I am really pleased with the result – I found my web designer on

  1. Cost efficient PR

There are a few ways to get to save money on PR. I have signed up to which is free for the basic package. You specify the areas you are interested in and then you get emails when a journalist is looking for info on your specific product or topic. You can also try out Smoothie PR from Charlotte Moore who focuses on reactive PR and sends out a list everyday of food specific journo requests and is very proactive in supporting her Smoothies – She charges £49 a month but worth trying it out and seeing if it works for you

  1. Get help for free or at least subsidised

I often joke if you are looking for help with technical stuff – get a young person! Well at risk of being ageist (ok I was and not all students are young!), many unis are looking for companies to take on their students either for a year’s placement or during the summer. I did it at ichiban and we had Otis for two years and he was amazing, doing all our admin, running social media and helping with exhibitions etc.   Some of the summer interns come for free, are subsidised or you pay the living wage. Its well worth approaching your local uni and seeing what they have to offer.

If they offer food science, they can also help with research, innovation etc

Which leads me to the BONUS point

  1. R&D tax credits

If you have worked on innovation or new product development, you may be entitled to claim all that cash back against tax. Have a look at the government website –

This is a complex area and worth finding someone to make the claim for you – most companies do it on a “no win, no fee” basis so doesn’t cost you money up front

So there you have it, some of my top tips for ensuring you don’t spend mega bucks on launching your product, promoting it or doing your category reviews!!


Top 7 Mistakes Suppliers Make When Selling to UK Retailers

 I was recently asked to give a talk at the Natural and organic product show about what mistakes suppliers make when selling to the retailers – both from my experience as a buyer and also as a seller – what has gone right and what has been a horrible disaster!

So I thought out what are the key mistakes we make?

Mistake 1 – Forgetting the buyer is human!

I am really guilty of this one – I have sent out an email to a buyer and no reply so think, being somewhat paranoid, they are ignoring me. But actually I forget that the buyer is human and busy and has a lot of other things on her plate other than talking to me. Such as:

  • Challenging sales targets (NEVER phone a buyer on a Monday…)
  • Supplier/product problems: quality, logistics, sudden crises, etc.
  • The stores themselves not doing what they are supposed to do!!
  • New launches and promotion challenges
  • Constant pressure from the competition
  • Pressure to find or develop great new products: THAT SELL!


Mistake 2 Right product, wrong retailer

You love your brand – you have made it the best in terms of recipe, packaging, pricing is spot on and you have a load of social media follows but… might be approaching the wrong retailer – Poundland is not right for Prada and Harrods probably don’t sell white sliced bread for 55p!! Think about your brand strategy and do you fit the retailer you are targeting. Some things to consider are

  • Who is your target customer?
  • What is your price positioning?
  • Do you have the capacity or plans to outsource?
  • Do you/your producer have the right accreditation (e.g. Salsa, BRC)?
  • Can you meet retailer margin expectations & still make a profit?
  • Can you deliver to their depot or store configuration?
  • How much can you afford to invest in trade marketing?


Mistake 3 Right product, wrong buyer

I did a talk with Nick Coleman of Snaffling pig recently who make pork scratchings. His business sells bagged snacks so he would go the snacks buyer – right? WRONG!! He does have bags of pork scratchings but they are great for the food to go aisle, yes snacks, but also does kilner jars for gifting and has even launched a joint venture this week on pizza with Papa Johns – so know the right buyer cos if you get the wrong one, your email may just go unanswered

Mistake 4 – Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

It’s a classic adage but it is so true – know your market, your numbers, your product capabilities and …..the buyer. Go through the following checklist

  • Who is the buyer – social media is your friend – build a profile and find some areas of common interest
  • Know the retailer current strategy and have a look at the info they share on websites – see the sites below

  • Business performance and KPIs – what is the buyers KPI – are they driven by cash profit or margin?
  • Visit the stores and speak to managers – they can be very insightful


Mistake 5 – Selling the brand, not the opportunity

Don’t sell the features and benefits of your brand unless you think through how that will help your buyer achieve THEIR targets. Will your brand:

  • Increase consumer footfall (with the right customers?)
  • Revitalise the flagging category and raise average cash profit
  • Create differential from other retail competition


Mistake 6 Being afraid to walk away!

You may get the meeting, do everything right and then the buyer asks you for a cost price that is your cost!! Never be afraid to walk away – you might be too expensive maybe due to low volumes, poor purchasing power etc but they may also be negotiating hard and by walking away you will determine if they are really interested. There is no point being a busy fool just to say you are in Tesco (other retailers are available!).

My book Recipe for success has a chapter on Negotiation which is well worth reading – order kindle version now – click here

Mistake 7 Being afraid to walk back!

Many suppliers once they have been turned down, cross their target retailer off the list. But no doesn’t mean no forever……things change. And here are some reasons to go back:

  • Your timing may have been wrong – time for a range review, time for change
  • Your offer may have improved – costs come down with more volumes or developed a stunning new marketing strategy
  • The buyer has changed – this is a classic one – a new buyer may have a different view on where she wants the category to go so fresh new opportunity


So go forth and get those retail listings and if you are unsure, contact me for an informal chat about how I can help you –

Plus I have written a bonus FREE Ultimate Guide to Category Strategy so click on picture to get yours now

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