How we got stocked in Sainsbury's: PACK'D

For many startups, the opportunity to do business with big business is a life-changing opportunity. Getting your products stocked in a major retailer can see you suddenly launched to a much larger audience, propelling you into an exciting new stage of growth. But how do you make those connections and pitch your products to the buyers of big brands? We'll be exploring this at our event Doing Business with Big Business, where startups will benefit from an intensive workshop, as well as talks from buyers from retailers such as John Lewis and Virgin Atlantic.

Two Virgin StartUp-funded entrepreneurs that know a thing or two about this are Luke Johnstone and Alex Stewart. They're the founders of PACK'D, producing innovative, ready-to-go frozen smoothie kits. Their kits include vegetables, fruits and superfood powders, making each one an easy way to pack some nutrition into your day (see what we did there?) Recently winning contracts with Tesco and Sainsbury's, here's how they got their products on the radars of buyers.


How did the launch with Sainsbury’s and other suppliers come about?

We approached Sainsbury’s in October 2015 by email with our six-page presentation and this was quickly passed to the right buyer. Things moved fast from this point – we sent samples, had back-to-back meetings, spoke with the buyer and finalised key details before getting the thumbs up. In March 2016 we launched in over 300 stores nationwide!

For us, new business has been a combination of emails, calls, trade shows, brand building and persistence. We spent time honing our presentation and pitch, contacting the right buyers, attending events, sending beautiful samples and having lots of discussions about the detail.

Securing listings has been different every time – sometimes it is very quick but it can also be a rollercoaster. The most important thing has been confidence in the product to keep going, and solid preparation to do it justice.

Have you approached brands or have they approached you?

We've experienced both, but we never rely on brands finding us alone. We seek out the people we would like to work with and email, attend trade shows and promote PACK’D as much as possible. If a company does approach you it helps massively if they have heard of you first.

What’s the process like after they’ve expressed interest?

It took us a few months for the launch to be confirmed, as big retailers have set periods when products change on the shelves.

Our steps were: first contact, send samples, meet, negotiate, meet, negotiate, paperwork confirmation. It was important to react fast to facts and prioritise discussions, without neglecting other work. All the stages are important and it isn’t completed until the order is placed – the paperwork stage seems simple, but it's the final hurdle.

It's all very exciting and also scary when you've invested so much of your life in to the company, but we knew that if we gave our best we could be proud and would stand a great chance.

What do you think it is about your brand that appeals to bigger businesses?

We are perfectionists and spent over a year making the product and brand the best it could possibly be. This stalled launch and cost us potential business, but it makes us clearly stand out as pioneers in this arena.

What are your top tips when working with or approaching bigger businesses?

Believe in your product. Be prepared. Be honest. Give it your best.


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