The challenges that come with launching and growing a brand require a combination of instinct, expertise, and data. Every brand team must find the right balance for themselves. At Expo West 2023, SPINS brought together a panel of leading retailers and innovative brands to discuss their approach to data, decision-making, and success. During the conversation, two brand CEOs offered insights about their decision-making processes when they’re considering what products to carry in their stores. Plus, two retail leaders shared tips and lessons they’ve learned as they continue to grow their businesses and build customer loyalty.
The panel included Liz Williams, President and CFO for Foxtrot, Cullen Gilchrist, CEO and founder of Union Kitchen, Stephanie Alexandre, owner of Alexandre Family Farms, and Jake Deleon, founder of Fila Manila. Each shared insights that can help brands achieve long-term growth and earn customer loyalty.
These are the 4 lessons brands can learn from these industry leaders:
1. Use Data to Anchor Your Story
When Jake Deleon, founder of Filipino food brand Fila Manila, is going into a retail pitch, he points to data that shows the growth rate for Filipino food outpaces other global cuisines. If the retailer he is talking to doesn’t stock many or any Filipino products, he has a data-supported case that proves there is an underserved customer segment ready to buy these products—they just need the opportunity. His retail pitch is not simply that Fila Manila products are good; it’s that they are already in demand.
2. Build Strategic Retail Pitches
Retailers understand that brands want to get on store shelves, but retailers are looking for the right products to put on their shelves. When a brand walks into a pitch meeting, they need to build a case for why its product is right for this particular retailer—and most importantly for its customers. Liz Williams, Foxtrot’s president, and CFO, knows that customers expect convenience when they walk into a store. Foxtrot is not a supermarket or big box store; their customers expect convenience and don’t plan to walk out with bulk items. The shelves at Foxtrot are lined with colorful, attention-grabbing packaging on small-sized products. Brands should understand the store experience they’re trying to be part of Stephanie Alexandre places the Alexandre Family Farms story at the front of conversations and connects it to data. She and her team use data to highlight their best-performing SKUs—proving that they not only perform well in stores but that they also have a connection to their consumers. This combination of quantifiable information with more personal storytelling can bring a brand to life and help them stand out.
3. Understand The Values-Oriented Consumer
When Deleon was creating the first Fila Manila product, he thought about it as a solution to a problem: there weren’t many Filipino products on store shelves. First, he began with the Filipino foods he liked, and then he broadened the scope to reach a wider audience. The Fila Manila team looked at their top-performing products and identified the common attributes (such as gluten-free and vegan) to understand what resonated with their audience. Today’s values-oriented consumer is looking for good flavors and for a variety of attributes that align with evolving preferences.
4. Make the Community Part of Your Story
Cullen Gilchrist, CEO and founder of Union Kitchen expanded on the importance of understanding consumers. In his experience, businesses that prioritize success within their local communities have a better chance of succeeding at business because they are connected to the people who are buying and using their products. When brands address the needs of their neighbors and community, they become part of a local story that can evolve into a regional and ultimately national presence.