With a huge proportion of food produced being sold by supermarkets, it’s easy to see why start-ups want to hit the shelves of big retailers. Food marketing expert Jo Densley gives us her tips to make your product stand out from the crowd.

Photo of Jo Densley

Jo is the co-founder of Relish Food Marketing, specialising in growing food brands and selling products into retailers. Follow her guidance to make your food product sparkle on the shelves.


Be a legal eagle

There are certain elements that are legally required on any packaging to be sold through retail – this differs from what you need when you are selling direct to the public yourself and protects you, your products and the retailer. Your local trading standards office will be able to help you, but you’ll have to think about things like your product name, description, list of ingredients in order of quantity, nutritional information, weight or volume, contact details, usage instructions, use by or best before dates, allergen warnings and barcodes.


If your product has got shelf stand out, it’s going to get noticed. And by this I don’t necessarily mean the brightest, boldest packaging on the shelf. It depends what category you are in. If you are in a category where every other brand is bright and bold, stand out might mean clear white and simple. Don’t forget to think about which bit of the pack will be most visible to the consumer and make sure your key messages are there. And if you have more than one product, clear colour coding making it easy to identify the different varieties within the range. Sometimes less is more. Think of your packaging like a newspaper – you need a headline message to jump out from the pack to grab the shopper’s attention so that they pick it up.

Communicate your messages

Your brand name and pack imagery communicate your brand personality. The packaging of your product is like a mobile advert which is there to sell your product. Unfortunately, you can’t be there every time someone picks up your product in store, so your packaging has to do the job for you. Once the product is in their hand, they are looking the messages that are pertinent to them – is it gluten free? Is it 100% natural? Is it low in sugar?  

Think outside the box (the store)

You can support your products performance with your own marketing. Think about social media, your website, advertising and so on. The story behind the product is a key way you can intrigue the consumer enough to make them want to buy. Do you have a lovely story behind why you make your product, is there something lovely/unusual about where you source your products from for example? If consumers feel warm towards your product because of your story it is more of a reason for them to pop to the shop and buy it.

Work to stay listed

It’s often easy to forget what happens next in the euphoria of winning that all-important supermarket listing. But staying listed is the hard part. A combination of supporting your brand with a calendar of promotions, your marketing plan, getting the commercial package right, a pipeline of new product development to keep the retailer and consumers interested will all come together to help you keep the first listing, and win others. Your buyer will be monitoring the rate of sale of your product to ensure your brand meets category targets. Visit stores and check where your product is sited, and promotions are displayed correctly. It’s perfectly reasonable for you to raise things like this with your buyer.

For further insight into getting your product ready for big retailers, sign up to our Doing Business With Big Business workshop.