Getting stocked by big brands

In the eleventh episode of the Startup Series, Pip Murray, founder of all natural nut butter brand Pip & Nut, gives her advice on how to pitch to major retailers.

From its beginnings at Pip Murray’s kitchen table in 2015, nut butter brand Pip & Nut has gone on to become the UK’s fastest growing nut butter brand, stocked at retailers including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Ocado, Holland & Barrett and Selfridges.

Pip started making her own nut butters after she spotted a gap in the market.  A keen marathon runner, her favourite post-run treat was peanut butter on toast. But she was frustrated with the choice of nut butters available. Leading brands were packed with refined sugar and palm oil, while brands marketed as healthier choices were dull and unexciting. The Pip & Nut range features contemporary branding and moreish flavours including honey almond and chocolate coconut hazelnut, along with smooth and crunchy peanut and almond butters. Since launching her nut butter range, Pip has also created new product lines including almond milks and compact squeezy packs.

The Pip & Nut range is now stocked at more than 4,000 stockists across the UK and will be launched in five new territories in Europe by the end of 2017. Pip has also won a clutch of awards including the 2016 Women in Business of the Year award and the Virgin Startup Foodpreneur Retail Award.

Pitching to leading retailers can be a daunting task for a startup - it can be difficult to persuade buyers to give you shelf space when your business or products are new. Pip recommends business owners should concentrate their efforts on three main areas: creating a great product, using your contacts and being persistent.

Read on for Pip’s advice on how to pitch to retailers:

1. Once you've identified a gap in the market, fill it with something tasty

The idea for Pip & Nut sprang from Pip identifying a gap in the market. But even if you’ve spotted a gap with real growth potential, Pip says it’s important not to neglect the basics. It’s essential that your product tastes great, as repeat purchases are vital for growing your business.

2. Existing retail contacts could help you speed up an introduction

If you’ve got existing personal contacts or contact within your network, introduce your products to them first.

“If you’ve got any contacts within retail, whether they’re your own contacts or a mentor or friend, they can hopefully make an introduction for you. Buyers are incredibly busy people and they get a huge amount of enquiries on a weekly basis from startup brands. An introduction can certainly cut through that, and may flag your email to them quicker than if it would if you were going in cold.”

3. Think about your buyer when you create your product

A retail buyer’s role is to source the right range of merchandise which will help their store to grow and increase its market share. Pip says it’s important to bear this in mind when you create your products. “You do need to create a product that generally adds value to their category or their store. Make sure that you’re thinking about the buyer and what they are wanting from their products.”

4. Persistence pays off

Radio silence from a retailer doesn’t necessarily mean bad news.  “If you don’t get a ‘yes’ straight off the bat, it doesn’t mean that it won’t convert into one later down the line,” says Pip.

If there’s no response from a retailer, Pip urges startup businesses not to give up. It may be worth approaching the same retailer again later down the line with a refocused pitch.

“We’ve got a number of retailers that we’ve been in touch with for the past two-and-half years that still won’t stock our brand,” says Pip. “But it’s not so much about a ‘no,’ it’s more that you just need to try to refine the way that you’re pitching in. Or perhaps it’s just a timing thing, in that it’s just not convenient for them.”

5. Ensure your product performs at its best

“Every bit of shelf space that you have has to work incredibly hard. You have to be mindful when you’re pitching into a buyer that space that you’re taking from another brand has to perform to a similar level,” says Pip.

Pip & Nut uses PR, social media and events to promote the brand. As well as sharing recipes, videos and invitations for community events on social media, Pip & Nut has successfully collaborated with other major brands through partnerships such as holding fitness sessions in conjunction with Nike and becoming an official partner for the Virgin Sport Oxford Half Marathon.

“There’s a certain amount of legwork that you have to do to make sure your brand delivers the same revenue or same rates of sale as as competitor brands,” adds Pip.

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