Q&A with Wallaby Foods CEO on getting the Byron Bay brand onto shelves at Coles
Wallaby’s range of health-foods is hand-made in a facility “on an escarpment above Byron Bay” – and now its latest product range, Superfoodie, is on the shelves of Australia’s second-largest supermarket, Coles. Wallaby’s CEO Paul Owies and the brand’s creative partner Michael Berry of HBT Agency, give some insights behind that success in this Q&A.
M: Was it always your objective to get in to a major retailer?
Paul Owies: Absolutely. Given Coles (along with Woolworths) holds such a large proportion of market share in Australia, naturally it was one of our key objectives to get Superfoodie on Coles shelves. In fact, Woolies and Coles combined hold over 70% market share of Australia’s $82 billion grocery sector, which illustrates how important these retailers can be to an FMCG’s brands success.
M: What is your advice on building and maintaining a great relationship with a retailer?
PO: Every time you make contact with a retailer make sure you have something new and/or interesting to tell them about your product. Keep in mind, interesting news doesn’t necessarily have to be major product milestones – it could be announcing that you have achieved kosher and halal certification for example.
Having lots of activity in your product development pipeline will help you to continue to deliver interesting information and maintain healthy relationships with your retailers. It also demonstrates that you are constantly developing and improving your product/s.
M: How many years did it take to get Superfoodie into Coles?
PO: We were very successful and achieved entry into Coles in just ten months. To gather momentum, we first tested Superfoodie with smaller distributors with the view to move quickly to the larger retailers. This approach works well as a litmus test, because generally speaking, if you can sell in smaller end retailers you can feel more confident that you’ll do well in the larger retailers. This approach also works two-fold, as success in smaller retailers makes a product more desirable to the majors, which is exactly what happened with Superfoodie and Coles.
M: What are the critical things you need to do to get your products into a major retailer?
PO: My top items are, one: your product must be contemporary. Two: it needs to adhere to the demands of your category. Three: you must have a point of differentiation. And four: your product needs to be visually appealing.
Understanding what your market category currently demands is essential. With Superfoodie, we wanted our range to be positioned in the health food section, so we needed to make sure it met the needs of shoppers that frequent this aisle. Health food enthusiastic customers want products containing simple, healthy ingredients – preferably gluten, sugar and preservative free – so it was vital that Superfoodie met these criteria.
To establish how to make your product contemporary, do your homework. A great place to look for inspiration is overseas. Look at the market leaders in your product category abroad, analyse what they’re doing and try to do it better. If your product is contemporary it will satisfy all core values.
Establishing differentiation needn’t be arduous. To achieve differentiation with Superfoodie, we made the slice rectangular in shape and employed cold press processing techniques to make the bar as healthy as possible. Points of differentiation like these are appealing to big retailers.
Lastly your product has to look appealing to your chosen market. Given Superfoodie is all about simple, healthy, earthy food, HBT designed a range of uncomplicated yet aesthetically pleasing packages incorporating a colourful palette that spoke to Superfoodie’s target audience. HBT used the main ingredients in each slice as the hero image on the front of each package, illustrating Superfoodie’s contents in an appealing and enticing way.
M: Do you have a distribution company and how did you choose them?
PO: Yes, we have several distribution companies. When choosing a distribution company it’s important to understand who the customer is and design your distribution matrix around that. In terms of Superfoodie, we chose 17 smaller and more specialised distribution companies around Australia and New Zealand that had strong ties in health food. Lastly, choose your distributors wisely – make sure they’re not competing with each other.
If you have an export strategy in place, such as Superfoodie, which has gained traction in Hong Kong and Singapore, adequate export shelf life is important to take into account.
M: Michael, what is your best advice for a brand wanting to get their product in to a major retailer?
Michael Berry: If you can, be first to market with something new – it goes without saying that having a point of difference is a big bonus. Also, make sure your product, especially its packaging, resonates well with your target customers. Generally speaking, each different aisle in a supermarket has its own identity and demographic. When it comes to pitching your product into a big retailer, you’ll need to prove that it’s an excellent fit for a particular section and your product’s ‘look’ plays a big role in this.
It’s also important to understand how buyers want proposals done. By arming buyers within retail groups with the appropriate resources, companies stand a better chance of having ideas considered. Therefore always assume that the person you’re presenting to will need to incorporate your proposal into their own planning and presentations.
M: How important is packaging when it comes to getting a product/brand into a major retailer?
MB: Packaging is critical as it’s the identity of what you’re trying to sell. Good packaging can make you stand out from the clutter of all other products on the supermarket shelf. Your product’s packaging is the first thing customers see and can arguable influence their purchasing decisions. I also love packaging because it creates an opportunity to establish a point of difference if you’re lacking one.
M: Any parting advice – is it getting harder to come up with an original product idea?
MB: I think there’s plenty of opportunity out there in terms of new product ideas, but keep in mind you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel. There is room for improvement on many staple items currently in the market. Take toothpaste for example – not only is the packaging all very standardised, it’s also not very competitive in terms of pricing, upwards of $5 being the norm for a tube. There’s certainly room for innovation in this area.