Thursday, May 31, 2012

Selling Directly to Grocery Stores

An increasing number of farmers and ranchers are selling their products to nearby restaurants and grocery stores. Those businesses want to satisfy their customer's demand for meals made from products grown close to home. Producers may have a greater degree of control over quality and price when they sell close to home, rather than to distant wholesalers.


• You may be able to sell larger volumes.
• The store may buy a range of products once you have introduced your first product.
• There is potential for a long-term relationship with the store, especially if you build a brand identity for your farm.


• The first sale may be difficult because grocery stores have a limited amount of shelf space, already have regular suppliers, and may prefer to buy from fewer suppliers.
• Payment is not immediate but generally occurs on a predictable monthly cycle.
• Standard packing and postharvest practices are required. Produce should be delivered clean and cold.
• Grocery stores may require a PLU (product lookup number) or UPC code (Universal Product Code, represented by a barcode).

Tips for Direct Sales to Grocery Stores

• Be professional, reliable, and on time when communicating and delivering products.
• Visit or call the store and ask for an appointment with the produce buyer before the season begins. Provide the buyer with product samples, a product list for the full season, and a price list.
• Always provide a bill or invoice when you deliver your products. Ask the receiving clerk to sign a copy that you keep for your records.
• Build relationships with everyone who handles your product.
• Ask about and follow the store's expectations for pack, size, grade, or post-harvest practices.
• Communicate with buyers weekly during the growing season about your product availability.
• Plan your plantings for continuous harvest and adequate volume to meet expected demand from the store.
• Offer the store lots of opportunities to promote and profile your farm along with your products.
• Offer to provide farm tours, pictures of your farm for display, and in-store demos of your products.

Key Questions to Ask Yourself

• What products do local grocery stores want that I could supply, including specialty ethnic foods?
• Does a particular chain have an interest in purchasing locally?
• What is my plan to ensure a consistent supply of a few key products over a period of several weeks?
• Do I have a Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) plan? Does this buyer require it?
(from ATTRA News)

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