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Retail Reality: Conquering the Red Tape (Part 2 of 3)

July 5, 2018

By Charmian Christie, The Messy Baker

To give you an idea of what’s needed to break into the retail sector, Food Starter asked three clients to share their stories. The resulting three-part series covers various aspects of getting your product into the retail market. Last week, we examined initiating contact. This week, we look at the handling of red tape.

For this series, we spoke with the following Food Starter clients:

Richa Gupta (RG) of GOOD FOOD FOR GOODHer products, including cooking sauces, ketchup, and turmeric teas, are available across Canada, including Sobey’s, Longo’s, and Fiesta Farm.

Dan Sennet (DS) of Bald Baker: The most notable of his ever-growing clientele includes McEwan and Marché. He is also currently doing a 10-store test with Metro thanks to an introduction facilitated by Food Starter.

Kam Karamchi (KK) of Broya: Their organic bone broth can be found in more than 150 retail stores, including Farm Boy, Sobeys, Whole Foods, and Healthy Planet.

What sort of paperwork/certification does the retailer you expect you to provide?

RG: We are certified organic, which takes care of lots of issues. Our product is made in a health-inspected facility.  We are in the GS1 database, which is a database of all product UPC codes. What they put in the system goes to retailer, which saves time for the retailer.

We are also EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) so retailers can place orders with us electronically. All those things are essential for our product.

DS:  That depends on the size of the retailer. The smaller the retailer, the shorter the paperwork. I walked into Essence of Life in Kensington Markets and spent 15 seconds with the buyer. She started with 2 boxes, no paperwork necessary. Whereas Metro wants shelf-life analysis, wrapping material, health, gluten-free certification, kosher certification — everything.  Each ingredient needs kosher parve status. The final product also needs kosher parve status, which can be troublesome or easy. We had to change some ingredients because they were not kosher parve.

Red tape is there for a reason and we respect the reason to ensure the consumer safety.

KK:  They [Farm Boy] ask that all of our suppliers submit paperwork that confirms they have proper certificates for their role — proof of organics, animal wellness, the policy from the meat supplier. Most suppliers are organized, but we had to change a vegetable supplier because they didn’t have their documentation in order.

What inspections / audits are required for your product? Is this special to your food line?

RG: [Answered above.]

DS:  Gluten-free certification requires the production facility to pass inspection. We don’t claim “certified gluten-free” because they charge insane amounts of money [for the inspection]. To save money we write on the packaging, “Made in a dedicated gluten-free facility.” Then if we get audited, the facility manager shows the supporting documentation.

KK:  With Farm Boy there hasn’t been any. Checking out the supplier is their inspection. They don’t come onsite [to Broya].

How do you add a new product to the shelves once you’ve got one product in the door? Does the previous paperwork apply? Why or why not?

RG:   It depends on if it’s a line extension and falls under the same umbrella, or a whole new category. New categories require new paperwork. There is no one playbook.

DS:  Size dictates the paperwork. Metro asks for updated paperwork to reflect new UPC codes. The GS1 central database must have that information, so they need our new products listed there. Smaller retailers, like McEwan are different. I just go in, do a demo, introduce the new line to their customers, and it’s good to go.

KK:  We have two bone broths and will introduce two new flavours soon. We don’t need new paperwork unless the ingredients are sourced from a different supplier. This is not a problem if your product is doing well. If you introduce a whole new product line, you need to start from scratch, but you will know who to contact and be able to get that product in front of them faster and more easily since trust has been built and you’ve gone through the initial contact barriers.

When and how often do you need to update the paperwork?

RG:  It depends on the retailer. Our organic certification is updated yearly, but other certificates require different timelines.

DS:   We haven’t reached the annual status yet.

KK:  If you change anything in the supply chain you have to change paperwork with Farm Boy. Farm Boy is only in Ontario, so that keeps our product provincial, which means less red tape. If we want to sell our product in stores in Quebec or Manitoba. we can’t produce at Food Starter. We would need a national producer.

What is the best piece of advice you got about dealing with inspections/certification?

RG:  Do the research. Find out what’s required. Then do it.

DS:  If you are going to make a claim, research whether you are legally allowed to make that claim. And if you are, make sure you have the documentation to support it and keep it handy. Also, only make claims that are relevant to your consumers. Twenty or 30 icons aren’t necessary. You don’t need to go all out. Make the claim of your brand and make that stand out rather than all the trendy claims.

KK:  Talk to someone who’s done it before either at Food Starter or other company such as your supplier. For example, the animal wellness policy. Our supplier had that paperwork already, so it was straightforward. With some policies the language can be complicated, so go over it with someone who has experience and will know what’s important and what’s not. Things are not always as they seem.

These interviews have been edited for the purpose of clarity and brevity.

*Click here to read the whole series: Initiating First Contact (Part 1 of 3) and Maintaining the Love – Now You’re There, How Do You Stay (Part 3 of 3).

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