Putting your product on the retail shelf without visibility to what is happening is like driving without windshield wipers. - SKUFood
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Putting your product on the retail shelf without visibility to what is happening is like driving without windshield wipers.

It is the time of year when we get more than our fair share of wet weather here in Atlantic Canada. In the last two weeks I have been driving twice when there was so much rain and sleet coming down, I was very thankful for windshield wipers. Without them, we would never have arrived.

When you put your product on the retail shelf, you need to know what is happening in this environment. Yes, it is a great accomplishment to get to the shelf however your work is not done. There are so many variables that can impact the performance of your product at retail you really do need to see what is going on.

We see 3 areas where having visibility of the shelf will help your business:

1) Understand your shelf presence

2) Stay up to date on your category

3)  Measure results

Understand your shelf presence

Consumers make the decision to buy at the shelf. Yes, you need to create demand and get on their shopping list but when they get to the store and your category that is when they have to decide to pick up your product and put it in their shopping cart.

When you have visibility to what is happening in stores you will really understand your service level. There are different methods to get your product distributed, but the ultimate scorecard is whether you are in stock on the shelf. You should measure the cases you supply divided by the cases ordered but you also need to ensure it is getting the shelf.

Many products have best before dates. When you are in touch with what is happening in store you will know if your products are selling, when they should sell. Your customers will be much happier to see them sell through before the best before date. There are enough challenges to overcome you do not need to be dealing with date issues. When you are in the stores you know and can react before your customer calls with a problem.

Building promotion plans is great and should be done. Getting your customer to agree and put the programs in place is a great step. Unfortunately, if they don’t get executed all of this work will not deliver a return. When you do have promotions and programs in place you need to be in the stores to ensure they are getting executed.

Stay up to date on your category

You can have a great product but we have to remember there are other great products you compete with. When you are in the stores or have visibility to what is happening you can see what the competition is doing. You probably can’t change it but you will know and can react.

Watch the promotion schedule and level of discounts they are doing. It could be more aggressive than your program or less aggressive. Does not mean you need to follow them but you do need to understand it and also the impact on your volume. If they are doing 6 multi buy programs during the year and your volume drops by 50% then you need to determine the right response. You will only know this from being in stores.

We see so many changes in packaging. It can be product size, packaging materials, more user friendly or who knows what else. When you are in stores or have exposure to the other items in your category you can see what the competition are doing.

From time to time there are new entries in your category and perhaps they bring a new unique selling proposition. You should be aware of this. It does not mean you have to change but it could present an opportunity or explain a shift in your volume.

Sustainability is definitely impacting many categories. We see examples of packaging changes and claims about food waste or reduced environmental footprint. In some cases, retailers are putting these items on the shelf in place of existing SKUS.

Most retailers have private label programs. When you are in the stores you will know the items they have. This could impact your direction for line extensions or product sizes.

When thinking about your category consider the timing of retailer category review windows. You might not have a new listing to present but you do know this is when they will consider options and you should get into the store after this period to see what, if anything has changed. A store employee who updates plan o grams can be a valuable resource to when changes happen.

Measure results

When you have visibility to the shelf you can understand your sales.

You should have sales targets and if you deliver direct to store you know exactly how much you are putting in there. Measure these results and compare to the targets you have.

We mentioned promotions and programs earlier. If you have these in place you should be in the stores the appropriate weeks. See if they are impacting sales and talk to the people in the stores. Ask them what they think and how sales are going.

If you have a broker and/or a distributor working with you the shelf is the best place to measure the effectiveness of the work they do. Are your programs in place and is your product on the shelf, when it needs to be there. Important questions best answered at the shelf.

You have options

It is great to suggest all of these benefits to being in the stores. It is also a reality you have lots of things to do and you cannot spend every hour in retail.

The first thing we would suggest is to think of your time in the stores as part of your job. Many people who are in food production or processing believe their job is to get the product produced, which is true, but your job does not end there. You will stay on the shelf when you make sure it gets into the shopping cart.

You should schedule some time in the stores. Many stores have a spot to grab a coffee so you could even have a meeting there and then walk the store. You also do not have to do it all. Provide some of the people who work in your business with a basic checklist and ask them to go out and see what is happening. They probably have a different perspective than yours which can be valuable. It is also great for them to see reality. We can do everything right at the plant but if it doesn’t make it to the shelf consumers cannot buy it.

If you use a broker and/or a distributor they can help with store visibility. Pictures are great and almost everyone has a phone where they can grab a photo of your category and share it with you. It also helps remind them you are on this.

There are companies who specialize in this.



These are two options and we would certainly be interested in others if you have experience with them. They can provide different levels of coverage and action at retail. This can be more cost effective when travel comes into the equation.

There are so many things that need to be done to be successful in food and beverage. Although it is at the end of the process, visibility to what is happening at the shelf is so important. If you have other ideas about how to understand what is happening out there we are always interested.


SKUFood Recipes for Success Podcast

We are super excited to announce we have launched our SKUFood Recipes for Success podcast. We have been working on this project for a while and it is finally ready to share with all of you. Our intention is to share the stories of food businesses and others in the value chain while also providing insights that are interesting and helpful to people in the food and beverage industry.

In this episode, we're delighted to sit down with Carly, a culinary innovator on a mission to elevate kitchen experiences through the power of mustard. As she embarked on her journey towards obtaining her Red Seal Certification, Carly discovered the transformative potential of mustard as a culinary secret weapon. With a simple spoonful, she realized how mustard could effortlessly elevate familiar dishes to new heights of flavor and complexity.

Drawing on her expertise as a trained chef, Carly has embarked on an entrepreneurial venture, carving out a niche in the local food market for high-quality mustard. Her creations not only cater to seasoned chefs but also invite enthusiasts of all cooking levels to experiment and explore the culinary magic of mustard. Join us as Carly shares her insights, experiences, and the delicious journey she's undertaken to fill the mustard gap in the food market, inspiring us all to embrace the simple yet profound impact of this versatile ingredient in our kitchens.

Listen and subscribe where ever you get your podcasts.

Where is Peter Speaking?

Avian flu in the news, again

Our food supply system is incredibly complex. It is global and something that happens on one continent can quickly impact a commodity on a different continent. Avian flu is something that does have the potential to impact food supply all over the world. We did see another article that the price of eggs was likely to increase in the U.S. as a result of the findings mentioned in this article.

Whether you are involved with poultry or other categories this can impact your food and beverage business and also underlines the importance of food safety.

FCC Food and beverage report

We are looking forward to the release of the FCC Food and beverage report. It is so valuable to have Canadian numbers to compare your business to. This is a great tool available to people in our industry. Here is a link to get the report which will be released April 9.