Hello and thank you for joining us today. This is the Brand Secrets and Strategies Podcast #191

Welcome to the Brand Secrets and Strategies podcast where the focus is on empowering brands and raising the bar.

I’m your host Dan Lohman. This weekly show is dedicated to getting your brand on the shelf and keeping it there.

Get ready to learn actionable insights and strategic solutions to grow your brand and save you valuable time and money.


Dan: Welcome. There are a lot of concerns and questions about how are we going to navigate this pandemic? Today, I brought in the expert to help answer some of your most pressing bottlenecks, some of your most pressing questions, the things that you need to be thinking about to get a significant competitive advantage; or more importantly, how you can become a value-added resource to your retail partners; how you can get your product onto more store shelves in the hands of more shoppers. Simple things that we all need to be doing, they begin with selling your brand. How do you do that? What's important? What matters to the retailer? How do you communicate with the customer? These are just a few of the questions that are going to be answered in just a little bit.

Today, I brought on the expert Phillip or the SupermarketGuru. What's great about Phil is he has those insights that you can't get anywhere else. He's got relationships with other people within the industry. He can help you look around corners. Let's face it. We're all pretty focused on what's in front of us right now. Being able to pay attention to trends or identify trends that we can't even see, well, that puts us at a significant competitive disadvantage. Having a resource like Phil, helping us navigate through those trends, and helping us identify the difference between a real trend and a passing fad, that's what's going to help us in the long run. So, you definitely want to stay tuned.

This is a free webinar that I just did just recently, the recording of it, How the Pandemic Is Changing Retail, and How to Remain Relevant to Shoppers. You'll definitely want to stay tuned. As always, thank you for listening. This show is about you and it's for you. In appreciation for your time, there's a free downloadable guide for you at the end of every podcast episode. One that you can use to grow sustainable sales and compete more effectively with. Remember this show is about you and it's for you. The goal here is to get your product onto more store shelves and into the hands of more shoppers. Now, here's Phil.

Phil's a good friend. He's the guy when it comes to understanding and knowing what's going on in the industry, and what the opportunities are, what the trends are, etc. The reason I'm pointing this out is that we all get in our little bubble and we can't necessarily see what's around the corner, what's in another market. Well, Phil's secret sauce, his specialty, is helping you see around the corner, helping you know what the trends are, and other markets. As such, the SupermarketGuru has got a tremendous platform. He just set over 1,200 videos that he's done talking about products, talking about trends. He's also the host of a popular podcast, Farm, Food, Facts. I'll put a link to it in the show notes and a link to Phil.

So, anyhow, you want to go in and you want to check out his information, because he's such a tremendous resource. So, check that out. What's interesting is we're spending a lot of time talking about COVID and how it's affecting the markets, etc. His most recent podcast episode is something that I actually want to talk about today. It's about how retailers are stepping up to help the food banks and help farmers get their products to market in the absence of restaurants, etc. So, we'll talk more about that in a minute. Anyhow, Phil, thank you for being here. Would you please introduce yourself?

Phil: Sure. Thanks, Dan. It's a pleasure to be here as always. I think that what you're doing is so important-

Dan: Thanks.

Phil: ... because there's a lot of stuff out there. Getting to the truth of how to survive, whether you be a retailer or brand, is probably more important today, because all the rules have changed. Make no mistake about it. We're not going to see supermarkets operate the way they used to. We're not going to see brands operate the way they used to. This event in our lives, in our food lives, have really pointed out the frailty of the supply chain. There's going to be a lot of money put against that to fix it, because we can never have this happen again.

Dan: No. Thank you for framing it that way. That's actually where I wanted to start. First of all, people want healthier options, which is that was the trend before. So, retailers play, and brands play such an important part in our society and what's going on. To your point, Phil, thank you for saying that. We need to reimagine the retail landscape. I've said for years now that retail is broken. Now, we need to think about how do we get the food into the hands of the people that want to buy it. So, with that said, what are you seeing in terms of the trends today based on COVID? What I'm seeing is a lot of uncertainty in the market. Yet, I think that this is the opportunity for natural brands to lean in, and help make a name for themselves, and get their products in front of customers. Your thoughts?

Phil: Well, a couple things, number one is what we're seeing from a retailer standpoint and a sales standpoint is we're seeing people going back to big brands for a bunch of reasons. Number one is they believe in them. They believe in their legacy. Also, probably most important, the retailers can depend on them. I think that the small brands have really been hurt substantially and need to step up their game, because they weren't able to make supplies. Many, many small brands are co-packed. They're not made by a company themselves. As a result of it, retailers were very frustrated. They couldn't get the brands that consumers wanted. They couldn't keep that momentum going for healthier products.

I think that now's that point in time where the natural and healthier brands need to step up, need to secure their supply chain, number one. Also, if we look globally, according to Nielsen data, what we've seen and this is not food, but HBA, we've seen people moving away from the natural soaps and the natural laundry detergents and so on, and going back to petrochemicals. So, this is very serious stuff for our industry, and we've got to be able to reverse it. So, what the smaller brands have to do, especially in HBA, is do a lot more testing and prove their efficacy. In fact, if they have to modify their formula if they would, they're going to have to. I mean, there's a reason you can't find Purell on shelves. You can't find bleach on shelves and so on.

People are buying those, because, whether it's true or not, they feel that they work better. So, what we've got to do is instead of just putting on labels "Not tested on animals," "100% Pure," whatever that is, we've got to be able to put test results on those products to reaffirm that these products are good, not only for us, but for the planet as well.

Dan: Thank you for saying that. This is something I've been talking about for years. Actually, this is why I built my free Turnkey Sales Story Strategies course. I believe that every brand needs to really understand their core customer. If you're paying attention to your core customer, then hopefully you figured a lot of this out. Where I'm going with that, and I want your thoughts, is it's all about trust. Do your customers trust the product that you're putting in there? So, I believe that we need to communicate beyond the four corners of our package, the trust, the value that we provide. I know from my experience that a lot of those products have the necessary whatever they need in them to be able to protect us.

CleanWell, for example, a previous client, full disclosure, their product is fantastic at getting rid of germs. It's all-natural, etc. But the point to your point, customers don't necessarily have that trust factor, because they're going back to what they're used to. To your other point is that the supply side issues are broken. This is where I think the natural brands need to really lean in, understand their customer, understand how they can benefit the customer, understand how they can help their customer through these trying times, and then support the retailers at a much higher level. To your point, this is not our time to pull back. This is our time to lean in.

You're right, the big brands are getting the larger share of shelf, the larger share of the voice, but the reality is that they were struggling before. As people want brands that they feel good about, brands that align with their missions, and what's important to them, here's a unique opportunity that I think the natural brands need to take advantage of. Your thoughts?

Phil: Absolutely right. There's no question. I know a lot of people on a personal level, who haven't had Oreos for decades. Now they're eating bags of Oreos, because they're on the shelf, number one. They want that comfort food. What the natural food industry must do at this point is not to rely on Expo West, not to rely on the Fancy Food Show, but to rely on yourselves and to rely on what you bring to the party. It's not about some buyers walking past you at a trade show, because the new trade show model is going to be very different. We're not going to see Expo West with 100,000 people in it. We're not going to see that level of booths. We're not going to see a booth next to a booth anymore. So, that whole business has changed.

So, what you really got to do is you've got to build up your repertoire of sales techniques, of marketing techniques to bring directly to that retailer, and assure that retailer that you can supply. We hopefully are not going to see a recession. We hopefully are not going to see another round of COVID-19 in the fall, but there's a possibility that we will. The thing, Dan, that really stunned the industry is we're used to high volume. We're used to Thanksgiving. We're used to Super Bowl. We're used to that, but we have 6 to 8 weeks to 10 weeks to plan for them to get the inventory in the stores, in the warehouses. This hit all of a sudden. That's going to be one of the game-changers, that these retailers are not going to be left the way they were this time with empty store shelves.

There are still some stores in the country that are still up maybe 70% capacity. That's it. Even if we look at the physical structure of a store, that's got to change and sure we know about the plexiglass and limiting the number of people and so on, but drive around to the back of a supermarket and you'll see one or two loading dock doors. That's it. So, right now as stores want to fill those shelves, you see tractor-trailers on the side of the road, waiting for the store manager to call them. So, that they have a slot to be able to go in and unload. So, everything is going to be reimagined from the trucking.

We also have a major problem with trucking. This is one of the reasons that I think Elon Musk is so excited about autonomous trucks. We've got an aging truck force, they're retiring. A couple of years ago, there's a device put on the trucks that don't allow them to drive more than 10 and a half hours. These truck drivers get paid by the haul, they don't get paid by the hour. So, it's their advantage to be able to run that truck 16, 18 hours. Of course, they've got a little help doing that with amphetamines. But the reality is that now they make a lot less money than they used to make. So, we've got to figure out that. Everything from farm labor, to trucks, to warehousing, to deliveries to in-store, all that's being worked on right now. We've got to fix this very quickly.

There's a lot of investment being made in robotics behind the scenes, because we, frankly, can't rely on human beings. If we look at our meatpacking, shut down. The reason for that is those meatpacking plants aren't much different than Upton Sinclair wrote about The Jungle in 1906. You still have people working shoulder to shoulder, face to face. That job in my opinion... I know people who work in meatpacking plants don't want to hear this. That job should be done by a robot, not by a human being.

Dan: Well, it'd be a lot safer. I'm in Colorado, where one of the worst outbreaks is in Greeley, Colorado, which is really sad and unfortunate. But to your point, I agree with you completely. You've shared a lot there. So, let's unpack a little bit of it. Again, the reason this free webinar series begins, and thank you for your comments about supporting this, is because of Expo was being canceled. I was literally getting ready to walk out the door when I found out about the show being canceled. I would have been in the air within an hour or two. The point being is that you're right. It's an inefficient way to do business. When I started in this industry, I'm dating myself a little bit, trade shows were the way that we sold our products. It's what we relied on and there weren't any creative strategies around that.

Well, thanks to a little retailer called Walmart, retailers started to consolidate. So, we had to learn how to be more strategic. That's where category management came from as a result as well. One of the partners in this webinar series here is ECRM RangeMe. They've really stepped up their game to help brands get discovered and connect the brands with the retailers. The point being is you're absolutely right. Trade shows are somewhat inefficient. I know that's going to cause a lot of ruffles, a lot of feathers, but trade shows are great networking events. They're not a great place to sell your brand. So, being able to still get your brand on a retailer shelf, that's critical to every brand's survival, kind of goes back to what we're talking about. In other words, you've got to have those points of connection.

Brands have got to continue to work with retailers. Before I started, I hit that record button, I mentioned that in my newsletter, I'm still getting a lot of brands with the out of office due to COVID-19 type stuff. And then two or three months later, the point being is what are you doing to grow your brand? What are you doing to help support the retailer? So, you're absolutely right, we need to reimagine. We need to think differently about our go-to-market strategy. This is the opportunity for small, natural, disruptive brands to come up with creative solutions to get their products onto more store shelves.

One of the things you're talking about is some of the automation that needs to take place, could not agree with you more. We've got to have more efficient strategies to work around this. Let's use toilet paper as an example. All the toilet paper disappeared, because the way that the model was built, just-in-time inventory, is that we didn't have enough consumer product available. So, now, restaurants are selling toilet paper, the commercial stuff, to kind of fill the void. So, that's kind of helping out a lot, but why isn't that, as an industry, we've reimagined how to plug some of those efficiencies in and pick up some of the slack? Where I'm going with this, we'll just jump right to it, your recent podcast episode with Publix Market, which by the way I love. Please, everyone, check that out.

It's very disheartening to hear about farmers and ranchers destroying their crops and their animals, because of the disruption in the supply chain. This is while people are starving at food banks etc. The service at food banks are overwhelmed. But having a retailer reach out to their local farmers, and start selling their products, and making them available to the consumer, I think isn't that a perfect idea, a perfect example of how we should be reimagining the way we go to market, the way we support consumers. Could you please share a little bit about that episode and some of your key learnings?

Phil: Sure. So, what Publix is doing is they're working with local farmers and local dairies. Publix is buying that product that normally would be plowed right back into the ground because there are no workers on the farms because there are no trucks to deliver it. They're buying it at a fair price, not a below-market price. They're donating it to Feeding America. Publix has always felt from day one a real sense of community and a real sense of being part of it. But probably my key learning besides Publix's once again stepping up and being a great retailer, the farmers that we had... The farmers called Five Brothers. It's in Florida and it's family-owned. ...was practically in tears, because he was talking about the fact that they were going to have to close.

He, I believe, is a third-generation or fourth generation on the farm. Had Publix not come to them, they would have to close and be out of business. But probably the most important learning from that discussion was the Publix is going direct. There's no question in my mind. I've seen other retailers do the same thing around the country. They have recognized that if they have a relationship with a farmer or a dairy, they don't need a distributor. They don't need a broker. They don't need the "middlemen" in order to operate. They want to be able to assure a tight supply chain. Walmart has done this for years. You mentioned Walmart before. They're signing contracts, where they get the full supply from farmers, from dairies, because they want to be assured that this is never going to happen again.

So, I think that even that sales model, where a lot of emerging brands say, "Okay, well, I've got to get a broker. The broker is going to be that magic light that's going to get me in every Kroger in the country or whatever." That is not necessarily true, to begin with. My dad was a broker. So, not only is it not true, but it's not to your benefit. I just want to go back, Dan, to what you said about trade shows. Also, I agree with you that the ECRM model is brilliant and works really, really well. You make really great connections. That's important because I don't care what the show is, whether it's Expo West, whether it's Fancy Food, whether it's Groceryshop, whether it's the old FMI.

The people, who are working the booths at the shows for these brands, are not your top managers. The people who are walking the aisles are not the top managers or buyers necessarily. We've got to get back to the idea that building a brand, as you do. I talk to a lot of these emerging brands and big brands and so on. They're not working that hard. That's my disappointment with them. I remember when I started out, I was selling canned ham from my dad. I used to have to wake up at 3:00 in the morning and go to the Bronx Terminal Market, in the Brooklyn Terminal Market. I just graduated college, like an idiot I guess I started out by like wearing a suit. That changed radically. When you go into these butcher stalls, and there's a guy with a big hacksaw and blood all over his apron. He doesn't want to see a kid in a suit.

What you had to do is you really have to work hard to sell. I remember going to Waldbaum's. You would sit in a waiting room for three or four hours before a buyer would see you. Now, I'm not saying that that's the right way to do it, but we're just having these new brands think that it's so easy. They read about how much money they're able to raise, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, great examples. Retailers are opening up their doors to them and things like that. Those are the exceptions. There are more failures across all food categories, whether it be natural food, organic food, conventional food, than ever before.

If you want to be successful with your brand, you, not a broker, not a salesperson, you have got to get out and build a relationship with that retailer. You've got to be there. You've got to have the tools. You've got to bring something to the party besides just having a great product. A great product is a must-have, but you've got to have those consumer insights. You've got to help them merchandise their product. You've got to do all those things if your brand is going to be successful.

I was just looking yesterday or the day before, when we filmed one of our Lempert Report videos, looking at the VC money. VC money is down last year 25% to food and beverage companies. This year, it's down like another 30%. VCs have moved away from food. They're onto the software and they're on to healthcare. So, this idea that "I'm going to have this great product and somebody's going to write me a check for a couple of million bucks," isn't going to happen.

Dan: I always used to say when I was working for Spence years ago, it is just because your mom likes it, doesn't mean everyone else will. You're absolutely right. Thank you for sharing that. In fact, I feel like this is where we need to bring the choir in and the amen and all that other stuff. This is exactly why I do what I do, to help these brands understand how to compete more effectively. It is about selling, nothing happens until someone buys your product. Your customers can't find your product, they can't buy your product. They can't find it. Sounds super simple stupid, but yet, it's amazing how many brands don't get that. Nothing against brokers, but to be efficient, brokers need to use cookie-cutter strategies that don't differentiate your brand.

So, the same strategy that they use to sell motor oil is not going to help sell your organic baby food. But people need to understand that again nothing against brokers, but the point being, and this is the core of everything I talked about with you and everyone else, is you've got to keep the hand firmly on the road of your ship. You've got to be able to leverage those go-to-market strategies. Put your broker to work for you on behalf of you, but you've got to give them the right ammunition.

To your other point, yeah, Venture Capital, that is being strained a lot. I hear stories about how a lot of brands can't get the money now. Deals that were essentially done in terms of your brand being sold, right before this was starting, they haven't been sold yet. The banks aren't funding. There are a lot of concerns about even supporting brands that are doing well. The point now is the opportunity for these brands to lean in and use creative strategies. Again, that's the core of why we're talking and everything you put out there.

In fact, I was telling you that I just recently created a free promotion analysis tool. The idea behind that is that 25% of our brands' gross sales are tied to trade marketing. That's everything required to get your product in the hand of a customer, and yet 70% of those dollars are wasted. So, let's help those brands get more of that money back. So, thank you for sharing that.

Some of the other things you're talking about. Again, thank you so much for bringing this up. This is about selling, this is about putting your best foot forward. This is about having everyone in lockstep with the same message as the founder, etc. Brands are not doing that. It's unfortunate. I could not agree with you more than even the big brands, in fact, this is the big brands' Achilles heel, is that the kind of phone it in. You work to create a product that's going to change the world, that's going to revolutionize the way we eat, and then you don't put that extra effort into it to help sell it.

Again, the go-to-market strategy should be every bit as disruptive and as creative as the ingredient inside your product. It is about selling. It's about how do we teach these brands the basics. My success in this industry comes from working with people, partner with people that we're able to sell and sell and sell, and radically change the way that retailers adopted the products we're working on, their products that we're selling. I mean, huge double-digit growth quarter after quarter. So, thank you for bringing that up.

What strategies do you see that brands could leverage? Because as you mentioned, and I agree with you, that the big brands are the easy place for retailers to go. What strategy should natural brands use to kind of get back in the game one, and then two, to step up their game and reclaim their space?

Phil: Well, Dan, I want to touch on two points. First, promotions, you mentioned promotions. We haven't seen promotions in three, four months. The reason for that is again, source of supply. We're not going to see tremendous add for Fourth of July barbecue or Memorial Day barbecue. That's just not going to happen anymore. We're seeing also retailers wanting to cut out some promotions. So, this is a good lever for them to do that.

The other thing I want to touch on before I answer your question is this is a great time for emerging successful brands to sell. What I'm getting at is not to cash out and say, "Oh, great. This was my dream come true." Big brands are really looking right now for those smaller brands. Big brands are getting a better relationship than they've had with retailers for a decade or more. So, what I see happening is a lot of these big brands that have been struggling, Kraft Heinz for example, Mondelēz. I mean, a lot of these brands are going to be looking for well-established brands that they can buy to make their portfolio even bigger. Because right now, that's who the retailer trusts. So, be on the lookout for that.

I think for natural brands, as we've talked about, it's all about the relationship. You've got to have a good product, as I mentioned before. That's just to get into the game. You've got to be making sure, whether it's a food product that makes a claim, that it's truthful because retailers are going to be looking at that. Consumers are going to be looking at that. Consumers are reading labels more than ever before. They've also discovered a lot of new products. Because what's happened is, they've gone to the store, their favorite product isn't there. They're buying whatever is there.

If I look at Nielsen data over the past three months, canned beans, are anywhere from the number one to the number four item every week. It's not because all of a sudden people love canned beans or discovered the potential health value of them. It's because there's nothing else on the shelf. So, we've got to realize that people are looking at other products that they haven't looked at either in years or forever, that people are shopping around. A recent survey came out that showed that 48% of people expect to be going to a different retailer than they have before this. We look at the second COVID-19 FX study that just came out this past Wednesday. It's a wealth of information about what consumer behavior has changed and what is going to change.

For example, one of the things that I'm very upset about is frankly, this whole disaster with face masks. I wear a face mask when I go out, certainly, when I go into a supermarket. The fact that we've got this pullback from people. It's become a political issue. The UFCW had a conference call on Wednesday. They had Christine who's the meat manager in a Kroger for 36 years talking about it and practically in tears. She wears a face mask when this whole thing started. She would tell her customers, "Please put on a face mask." They're refusing now. They're holding up the iPhone to take a picture of her in the face mask. What she said is it's like telling people that "I'm going to take away your guns."

The FX survey, which had me very upset, said that only 36% of consumers say that employees should wear face masks. I'm not a scientist. I don't profess to be, but everything that I've heard from Dr. Fauci and everybody else is distance and wear face masks. Only a third of people want the employees in a supermarket, who are working shifts of 10 to 12 hours, coming into contact with 2,000 people a day to be protecting them as customers and themselves as employees. It's a very, very strange time and a very, very tense time in the food industry. Because as shoppers are going into stores, they're not having great experiences. There's no question about that. People yelling at you.

I don't know, Dan, if you've seen that Costco video that went viral the other day with that shopper. That the Costco manager came over and took their shopping cart, because they had more than two packages of meat in it. The customer whipped out their iPhone and took a picture of the store manager saying, "You can't have that basket. Leave the store," and so on. So, it's a very, very tense time.

So, my point of it is, is that retailers are looking for solutions. Retailers are not looking for brands to come in, and brands to be disruptive, or brands to tell them to do something different. Retailers are now focused on one thing and one thing only, which is operational, which is trying to figure out how they're going to cover the cost of all this sanitizing that's taking place, the antimicrobial belts that they're putting on their check stand, the plexiglass. The guard that stands outside that says, "You have to have a face mask," the washing down of shopping carts. I mean we've added a lot of cost into the system.

So, when you're talking to a retailer and keep in mind that buyers, that CEOs, that everybody in retail has been working in the stores. Maybe they're now getting back to their offices and their regular jobs, but they've been on the front lines themselves. So, what you've got to do as a brand is really helping them, not try to disrupt them, not tell them that "Here's what's going on. This is the next best product that's ever been made." They are understanding consumer needs better than ever before. If you've got a product that builds immunity, that's what they want to hear from you. Consumers are understanding that one of the best ways to fight, whether it's COVID-19 or flu or any future virus, is to have a good immune system, is to be eating right, is to be having citruses, to be having vitamins.

Vitamin D has gotten a lot of attention. Those people who have higher levels of vitamin D have a better chance if they do get COVID-19 of not dying. So, all this information is coming out. You, as a brand, you should be reading it, should be understanding. You should be reformulating if you have to. If you've got some immune boosters in your product, or if you need to add some vitamins to your product. Consumers for the next couple of years are really going to be focused on immunity and building up the inner strength of their body to be able to ward off flu and viruses. That's a long answer to a very simple question that says, "What should a brand do?"

A brand should be on top of what the trends are. Make sure your values, your company values, as well as your product values align with the consumer values and the retailer values. Put it on the package, and really be a true partner with the retailer. Because if you're not, the retailer's not going to put you on the shelf.

Dan: Exactly what I was getting at. Thank you for sharing that. Yeah, you've got to be a value-added resource. When I was a retailer, brands would come to me and say, "Here's what I need you to do for me on behalf of my brand." I could not agree with you more and that's what I'm getting at. You've got to provide that support that retailers desperately need. You've got to make it super easy for them to say yes to your brand, yes to the consumer that comes in your store because of your brand, etc. I cannot agree with you more. This whole face mask thing, I agree with you. I'm horribly disappointed in the way that people are handling in this and managing this.

My wife is showing me a study that if I have a mask and you don't have a mask, what is the chance of me getting sick if you have a mask and I don't have a mask, if both we have, all that kind of stuff. They're really interesting, but the bottom line is, if we both have masks on, then that's a lot better. I don't get a lot of warnings when I sneeze, and my sneezes are very violent. If you're anywhere within a couple of mile radius, you could be infected if I had it, just kidding. But seriously, yeah, I think it's the very least thing that we can do.

To your point, we've got to do more to support the retailers. We're talking about the big brands buying small brands. Great idea. Great segue to one of the things I wanted to talk about. Big brands are trying to figure out what is the magic formula these smaller brands have in terms of connecting with their consumers. I've heard a lot of stories about how big brands are pulling back on their innovation. Now, I would argue that big brands, when they innovate, changing a package or a label or a flavoring is not really innovation, compared to natural brands.

But the point is, and I love where you're going with this, is that if the smaller brands are innovating, giving customers what they want, i.e. products that help the immune system, etc, then that makes them ripe to be discovered by other brands, by other organizations. Again, it's the push versus the pull strategy. Instead of "How much money can I pay the retailer to get my product on your shelf?", which is kind of the old model back to the trade marketing, instead "How can I provide so much value to the retailer that the retailer is going to call me up and say, 'How much of this can I get?'"

So, Beyond Meat, for example, they've been on the podcast a couple of times, they don't pay slotting. They don't promote their product. They've got lines out around the store. The reason for that is that they're giving the retailer's customers additional products that they would want to spend a premium amount on, etc. I'm not just talking about that, but to your other point, being able to provide this real value. It's kind of funny. One of the things you're talking about beans. I used to be a scout leader. When we used to collect food for food drives, we used to collect bags, and bags, and bags of green beans. It's amazing how many people buy that stuff and never eat it. Anyhow, so donating truckloads of green beans to the food banks.

You're right, people are looking for solutions. People are looking for products that can meet their needs. Again, anything that a brand can do to help a retailer survive, thrive, support their community, that's a huge win. Kind of going back to what you're talking about Publix, I've heard of some brands that are actually stepping up to make some of those relationships between the farmer and the retailer, make those connection points. Of course, I've always supported the notion that brands need to be closely tied to the farmers that create the products that they sell, celebrating them and reminding people that this is where your food comes from.

Another thing we've talked about before, so thank you for sharing that. As brands are looking to help support the retailers, some of the different things that that you've talked about. Retailers stepping up and doing all the cleaning, etc. I did hear one story about a brand. I don't remember the name of the brand that was supporting the other retailer by providing a lot of their natural disinfectants for the retailer to use to clean, et cetera. So, it was a more symbiotic relationship, but this is their way of giving back as opposed to some of the other things they did. Your thoughts?

Phil: Yeah, I think that we're seeing a lot more relationship building. Your example is a perfect one. Also, I saw yesterday the Clorox is working very diligently with United Airlines to make sure that their planes are there. What has me elated is that we are seeing a lot more attention given to the farmers. We're seeing farmers selling direct to consumers because they don't have that foodservice outlet. We're also seeing new competition for supermarkets and they're called restomarts. These are restaurants that are turning into the Cracker Barrel model that started in 196 that half of it's going to be a restaurant and half of it's going to be a grocery store. As you mentioned early on that there's a lot of restaurants that are selling toilet paper and other foodservice items.

We see the headlines where restaurants are selling 50-pound bags of flour and huge thing. That's not happening. If you look at what Cisco has done, Cisco is brilliant in my opinion. They've set up a separate organization, separate training, a separate website, to help restaurants get into the grocery business. Not only is it how to buy what the merchandising is, and so on, it's how to advertise that you're now this restomarts, if you would. So, what a retailer is faced with is having a new channel of distribution as a competitor. They're worried about dollar stores, and grocery outlets, and all-in, and so on, but now every corner restaurant is a competitor.

Before COVID-19, we would go out to either for lunch or for dinner 4.5 times a week. We went grocery shopping 2.2 times a week. So, if I'm going to a restaurant and I'm not saying we're going to go back to 4.5 times a week, but if that restaurant is starting to sell toilet paper and some groceries and limited supply. I mean it's going to be like a convenience store operation. It's not going to be a full-service supermarket. We've got to think about that channel.

Brands should be thinking about that channel as well because they're looking for products that maybe you can't get into a supermarket. But if in fact that restaurant that used to see 200 people can now only see 75 people, they've got a lot of space there. For you to be talking to Cisco or talking directly to the restaurant could be another new outlet for you that could become very powerful. A lot of restaurant folks that I've talked to see that as really their savior at least for the next few years.

Dan: I couldn't agree. In fact, actually, that was one of the next points on the list, is talking about Cisco. Love what they're doing, their new commercial's phenomenal. Let me go back a little bit. The reason those big companies used to... When I worked for Unilever, etc, we went through distributors. Kimberly-Clark, we went through distributors. Those distributors are effectively gone because they weren't providing a lot of value. They add a tremendous amount of cost. It still boggles my mind that they get paid on a commission. Yet, if you want to know where your product isn't selling, you got to spend money to buy a report to tell them. So, you can go close to those sales gaps, and then they mask the information or top... It drives me nuts.

But the point is, and I love where you're going with this, is that Cisco now is stepping up and they're going to disrupt that market, that segment, the supply side of the business. The cool thing is that there's going to be more competition there, which hopefully is going to make it easier for brands to be found. To your other point about restaurants, the restaurant on the street. I had never gone to them honestly, but because they start selling groceries. They were there and they're supporting the community. So, now I'm eager to go and support them, etc. The point being is now they've got a new revenue stream. They're going to survive, not in the same form that they did before, but at least they're doing something to help the community, et cetera.

I love the idea, the notion that you're put out there in terms of brands working with these restaurants to help get their products in front of customers, a new avenue. Again, these are some of the disruptive things that when you think about reimagining the way people get food and find food, that we need to be thinking about. So, thank you for sharing that. I love that story.

Again, going back to what you said about Publix, great supermarket chain altogether, but more importantly the fact that they saw needs, saw an opportunity, stepped up, and instead of donating a bunch of money to... I don't know. I don't want to name any different organizations, etc. But giving back to the community through that I think is absolutely brilliant. It's so heartening to see them save the farmers around them. So, thank you for sharing that. Do you have some other thoughts? I've got a couple of questions that came in beforehand.

Phil: Sure. Let's take those.

Dan: Okay, so are you ready? Okay. Gail said, "How can I tighten my brand's waist and still survive?"

Phil: Tighten my brand's waist?

Dan: Well, I think the comment there is, as I understood it is, how do you better manage your costs and get your product out there? What strategies would you recommend to a brand to continue to survive and thrive, given the fact that you've got to, as you said by the masks, by the shelves, by the Purell, etc?

Phil: Well, there's no question that you've got to look at both sides of the coin. You've got to look at what your costs are, and what your marketing costs are. You've got to be as efficient as possible without denigrating your brand or your packaging. You've got to be as smart as possible. One of the examples that I'll use comes out of Pennsylvania in the mushroom category, where there's this great company, very innovative, that's basically chopping up three different types of mushrooms. So, that you could make a blend with your ground beef or your ground turkey to make it healthier, to make it tastier, and so on. They had it in a package. There was a clear plastic package with a lid on top that you'd pull off. What they said is "We can make this better."

So, what they did is they got a shaker top, if you would, to put over that. So, when somebody wants to use the mushrooms, what they do is they've now expanded the use, rather than using the entire container at once, but now you could shake it on salads or in soups and so on. So, it's really looking at your product. Without knowing what the product is, it's hard to give specific examples on what you can do to survive. Think about all the uses of your product. If you look at Chobani, for example, Chobani is constantly out there innovating. Now, they've got a whole strategy of using yogurt as an ingredient. So, they've got a new package, which is an upside-down package, if you would, that has an opening so you can squeeze the yogurt right into the recipe itself. So, think about all the uses for your product.

Dan: Love that. In fact, actually, we've been using Fage for Greek yogurt in place of sour cream for years. You get protein. There are a lot of other benefits to it as well. So, thank you. So, Mike says, "What recommendations do you have to get my product in front of retailers?" One of the things I throw out there would be social media, help people understand. Get your community behind you. Your thoughts? Of course, ECRM RangeMe.

Phil: Yeah, of course. Again, it's hard to say without knowing what your product is, but the way you get your product out there is to number one, share with the retailer that consumers want it. So, to Dan's point on social media, do sampling. Sampling in the store is going to change as well. I'm not talking about sampling in-store. I'm going to make it up. If you've got a fabulous spaghetti sauce, send out samples of the spaghetti sauce to different writers and different bloggers, so that they start writing about your product. So, that you can go to that retailer and show them a half a dozen articles or dozen articles or dozen blog posts of people using your product to create that consumer demand. The supermarket is getting smaller, it's not getting larger.

The supermarket today has about 40,000 products on the shelves. I would predict that within two or three years, it'll be about 20,000 products. So, you're going to have to fight harder for space. You're going to have to differentiate your product. I can go into a supermarket today and see about 100 different brands of olive oils, all of which are basically the same thing. Sure, there's extra-virgin and there's regular and so on, but they're all basically the same thing. We don't need 100 brands of olive oil in a supermarket. You look at what ALDI has done with olive oil, for example. They've got a regular conventional olive oil. They've got an extra-virgin olive oil. They've got an organic olive oil. They import one from a city in Italy, where they're really curating that olive oil. They sell a lot of olive oil with just those four products.

So, I think we are going to see retailers pull back. I don't know if you saw the announcement this past week that Bob Mariano, who created Mariano's, who's the President of Roundy's and the President of Dominick's, is opening up a store March 2021 in Lincoln Park, right outside of Chicago. That store is going to be about 20,000 square feet. It is going to have a backroom for delivery. Knowing Bob well, it'll probably be robotic to make that more efficient. So, the stores are going to get smaller. You're going to have to really stand out and your product has to shout its benefits, if you would, to a retailer, not just to be another olive oil or another pasta sauce. We don't need that.

Dan: I couldn't agree with you more. Having another version of soy milk in the shelf, that just confuses people. 28 feet of Ragu or whatever, at least it's worked for Unilever. I couldn't agree with you more. I think that there's a lot of opportunities. Again, that's why it's so important for these brands to develop a community around their brand and help leverage that community to help the retailer understand why they're relevant. Amy says, "What strategies do you have to plan and forecast in these uncertain times?" That's a good question. I've thrown out ideas or in some of the webinars that I've done first around that, but what are your thoughts?

Phil: Amy, I'm sorry to give you this answer. I have no idea. When you look at planning and forecasting in this, it's very, very difficult. I don't know if you're manufacturing your product yourself; whether your source of supply and source of ingredients is stable. Whether your co-packing arrangements are stable, if you're co-packing, that's where I would work. I would make sure that my own supply chain for my product is as safe and secure and solid as possible. That's number one. Beyond planning and forecasting, how much you're going to sell, we just don't know. Again, without knowing the product or the category, no one... In my opinion, and it could be wrong. the baking field's ever saw the rise of baking yeast, of buying bread baking machines online, of flour. Nobody saw that coming.

Again, according to Nielsen, I think baker's yeast was the number one selling product for about four weeks during this period of time. Consumer behavior changes. Even as restaurants open up, people are still going to stay at home. They're still going to be cooking at home. So, if you've got a product that fits in with that model, good for you because people are going to be cooking more at home. Whether it's because they were bored, or whether they wanted their kids to learn how to bake, or they just want to fill their time. No one in baking saw that kind of rise where, as I mentioned before, canned beans. So, it really depends on your product.

If you could in the chatbox share what your product is, I can be more specific. But right now, you can do the planning and securing the back end of your supply chain. If you have a product that is a cook-at-home product that people are going to use, that you could plan for, and just really promote that in a very strong way.

Dan: So, pun intended. Yeast rising, just kidding. Love that. Thank you for sharing that. So, Jane says, "Do you think retailers will survive this pandemic with all the efficiencies of big retailers have?" I think this goes back to what we're talking about earlier, about I think to leverage with the brands that you're working with, etc, to take advantage of that, and then optimizing every opportunity to be efficient. Your thoughts?

Phil: So, some retailers are going to survive, some are not. The retailers that reimagine, as Dan said before, they will survive, but it's going to look very, very different. Also, to a point that Dan made earlier, the independent retailers have done better than the chains. Independent retailers for a lot of reasons have a more secure supply chain. They have relationships with local meatpacking facilities. So, a lot of independent grocers have not seen shortages of meat, have not had empty shelves on it.

Sure, certain products that come through a distributor, might have had problems, but the independent retailer in my opinion has come out of this stronger than a lot of the chains do. Also, if you're not selling independence with your brands, you should be looking at that channel as well. You should be looking at more channels to sell your product than you ever have.

Dan: Thank you for sharing that. Again, I think this is our opportunity to lean in and help those retailers out. Bob says, "How can I turn this into a positive for my brand? What steps should I take to make my brand more resilient?" I think you've answered that in terms of the supply chain and etc, but do you have any additional thoughts? In terms of the ingredients and whatnot, so go ahead please.

Phil: Yeah. I mean, it's to reach out to consumers. Again, without knowing what the product is, it's hard to say, but reaching out to consumers and telling them your story. I mean, consumers want to know more about the foods that they consume than ever before. They want to know where they're coming from. They're very concerned about our supply chain in meat, pork, and poultry. Right now, very nervous about that. Both from a supply standpoint, price standpoint, we're seeing double-digit price increases. They're very concerned about eggs. Eggs are used as a primary source of protein for a lot of people who are on SNAP. The price that now we're paying 26.9% over a year ago. Again, according to Nielsen, that's huge.

So, what you've got to do is you've got to get that message out to retailers and consumers that your supply chain is safe. We're starting to see retailers do price freezes on thousands of items, including poultry. We saw last week where Smithfield reduced the price of some of their beef products, 20% to 30%. We don't know how long that's going to last, but I think it's at least two a couple of weeks. Hopefully, it's through Memorial Day, so that people can at least enjoy their barbecues.

So, it depends on what your proposition is for your product and touts what that proposition is. But as long as it aligns with consumers, consumer values, that's what's important. Not just saying, as hinted before, "My mom loves my pasta sauce, you should like it too." That is not a marketing strategy. That's a strategy for failure.

Dan: It is. Thank you. We're right at the top of the hour. We got about a minute left. I've got one more question if you're okay with that.

Phil: Sure.

Dan: Okay. First of all, to frame this, I think it kind of ties nicely into what you said on your COVID podcasts that you're doing the Facebook thing, that you're doing with Winsight. Your idea about having the empty offices maybe convert them to indoor farms, which I think is a really creative strategy. So, I'm wondering if this might have something to do with that. "But what strategies can I employ?" Joe says, "to keep my store afloat, given all the office closures around me, including the reduced workforce being permitted in those spaces?"

Phil: Joe, I'm not sure if you're a manager of a chain or an independent. Both channels are faced with exactly what you're talking about. You're going to be doing more delivery, you should be pushing delivery. A lot of these office buildings that had thousands of people are not going to have thousands of people. Also, I don't know if you saw the report that came out, I think it was yesterday that showed that these buildings that are now empty were not meant to be empty.

So, from a bacterial standpoint, when they reopen, whether it's the plumbing that hasn't been used, whether it's the air, these buildings just can't open up like this. They're going to take a lot of work and a lot of money to do it. A lot of companies that I know that have had open office plans, hey, those are gone. People are going to be going back to offices with doors on them. So, that whole office environment is going to change as well as a lot more people working at home.

So, I would say the strategy that I would use is I would be pushing delivery. Whether it's delivery with your own people, with an outside service like Shipt or Instacart, I do think that there's going to be a big opportunity for retailers to have their own delivery force. The app part of it is relatively simple now. There's a lot of software out there. So, it shouldn't be scary, the delivery part. You have employees that know your product that might have been furloughed because you don't have the traffic in your store. Re-engage them to be delivery people and pick the products for you. But your store will have, not even because of the offices, but because of mandating distancing.

UFCW is pushing this very hard. You're going to see a volume less than half in the store at a particular time. That's going to be a turnoff to consumers. Schnucks in St. Louis did something brilliant in my mind, which was you can go to their website and make a reservation of when to shop. I think we're going to see more of that. That's a relatively simple technology, the same way you would make a reservation to go to a restaurant. You make a reservation to go shopping. While it sounds like it's a little cumbersome, I think people enjoy it. People feel protected by it. From a retailer standpoint, you could manage things a lot better than you could due by having a guard outside getting into a fight with shoppers.

Dan: I like that. In fact, actually, Joel just put in a question and I think you just answered it about "Knowing that people would prefer spacious area, how do you think the small to mid-sized chains would surpass the pandemic, talking about the number of people in the store?" Hopefully, Joel, that answers your question, but thank you for putting it out there. I agree with you that I think that the opportunities now for brands to help the retailers out, for us to reimagine retail. Any last parting thoughts?

Phil: Just to be safe, to be smart.

Dan: [crosstalk 01:04:40].

Phil: To realize that this is a very difficult time. We've never had a period of time in our lives where our shoppers are worried about buying food. Sure, they're worried about prices. They're worried about recalls, but it's never been a supply issue in our lifetime. That's going to change things. So, yeah, we're going to see a bit of the Wild West, we're going to see some new formats coming out. But look at your brand, look at your product very carefully, whether you'd be a retailer of food. Make sure that you're the best you can be, and get out there, and listen to Dan's podcast for some great ideas.

Dan: Thank you. Appreciate that. Thank you so much, checks in the mail. I want to thank you for coming on today. Again, Phil Lempert, the SupermarketGuru. His information in the chat. Check out his podcast, it's phenomenal. Also, the COVID-19 Facebook group that he has, the thing that is twice a week with Winsight Market. Great resources. Thank you for being here. Also, I want to thank PlantBased solutions, ECRM RangeMe. We talked a little bit about getting your product in front of people, sampling. Social Nature is going to be doing one of the webinars with me coming up pretty soon, WholeFoods Magazine, C-Suite Network, C-Suite Radio, and Big Orange Productions.

Thank you again for your time, Phil. I look forward to our next conversation. Thank you everyone for showing up. I appreciate it. Don't forget to check out, the next webinar's coming up on the event page on my website. Next one, we're going to be talking about plant-based foods. And then after that, you're going to learn about the differences between the Canadian and the US organic shopper. So, thank you for your time. I look forward to our next conversation. Thanks, Phil.

Phil: Thank you, Dan.

Dan: I want to thank Phil for coming on today. I'll be starting to put a link to the SupermarketGuru, Farm, Food, Facts, and all of his other resources on the podcast web page and in the show notes. You'll definitely want to check them out. Leverage his insights to gain a competitive advantage no matter what channel, no matter what market you're working with. In addition to that, I also want to thank all the partners that helped me with this webinar series, including WholeFoods Magazine, ECRM RangeMe, PlantBased Solutions, Social Nature, C-Suite Radio, C-Suite Network, Big Orange Productions, etc. More importantly, I really want to thank Phil, the SupermarketGuru, for being here and sharing his insights with you. Thank you for your time. I really appreciate it.

Today's free downloadable guide is a new item essential checklist. Now, I know we're talking about how to keep your brand on a store shelf, but these are the foundational elements that you need to have in place to be able to help your retail partner succeed with your success. So, I think it's a good idea to go back and take a look at what is the healthy foundation you need to be able to support your brand? So that you can leverage that to help your retail partner compete more effectively, help them meet the needs of your customer, their customer. You can instantly download this as well as the show notes by going to Thank you for listening. I look forward to seeing you in the next episode.

Learn more about Phil

Phil Lempert The Supermarket Guru:

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Lost in the Supermarket:

Thanks again for joining us today. Make sure to stop over at for the show notes along with more great brand building articles and resources. Check out my free course Turnkey Sales Story Strategies, your roadmap to success. You can find that on my website or at Please subscribe to the podcast, leave a review, and recommend it to your friends and colleagues.

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