EP 20: Getting Your Product Into Whole Foods with Tom Jerige

In this episode, Robyn speaks with Tom Jerige, CEO and founder of Clean n’ Brew. Tom gives us the inside story and tips on his company’s journey into Whole Foods while also growing his online sales presence. In the interview, Tom shares the process his brand, Clean n’ Brew, took to gain placement in multiple Whole Food locations.

For most brands, selling in brick and mortar stores can be a fantastic way to increase their cash flow and enhance their visibility to new potential customers.  The increased distribution can help with new customer acquisition and brand awareness.  This can, in turn, boost your sales and ability to scale your business on Amazon as you have the additional branded search you can leverage for selling online. 

Pursuing Brick and Mortar

Tom shares his experience and emphasizes that it’s not just about the number of eyeballs that a particular platform or distribution channel has. It comes down to the customers that you’re targeting and the platform’s alignment with the overall goals for your brand.

“We looked at our brand to see which retailer felt would best match with the terms of our ethics, our corporate culture, and our belief system.”

When looking at potential additional distribution points, you want to make sure that the brick and mortar retailers are in alignment with your branding and will have not only significant traffic but also the right clientele for your product.

Time, perseverance, and market readiness.  

It’s important to understand that to get into brick and mortar, especially the big box stores, is a long-term process, and it’s not going to happen overnight. Even after you do get on shelves, usually there’s going to be a roll-out where you’re going to test in some stores and then expand out to larger stores.

Tom’s first recommendation is to make sure that you’ve done at least one focus group. It could be small or even just family and friends. Find out what the consumer thinks, understand your messaging, look at your branding strategy, and packaging.

In parallel, you need to make sure that everything from a legal perspective is buttoned up. Take care of your UPCs, dietary information, hazard warnings, and any other parameter pertinent to your product and have everything documented. Make sure you have all your accreditations, and you can back them up.

“There will be roadblocks, and you just have to block and tackle, just have to stay optimistic and have that confidence in your product.”

Accelerator Programs

“Once you have your idea, find an accelerator program, there’s a lot of different accelerator programs around the country.”

Accelerator programs give you a support system, a better understanding of the issues you need to address, and, most importantly, an overview of what’s ahead so you can plan accordingly and be prepared to tackle every scenario rather than having to improvise on the go. 

These programs will make you lean and agile when it comes to management and starting a business, this will be crucial for success, especially during the first stages where you don’t want to overspend.

Along with the excellent information provided in these programs, the relationships that you can establish with your fellow cohorts are priceless. Networking with entrepreneurs going through the same process as you and having constant feedback of information can set you miles apart from your competitors and save you a lot of headaches. 

Tom shared that being in an accelerator program made sure he had all of the testing, focus group data, and quality packaging needed to close a deal with Whole Foods.

Know Your Business

In your company’s journey, every victory means a new set of problems. You must have a clear business plan so you can always move forward. Managing market share, knowing your beachhead, understanding who and what your competitors are doing. You need to be a master of your craft and truly understand where your target market is and who you’re selling to, because you’re going to get asked a lot of tough questions, especially from investors.

You don’t need to be a good salesperson. You don’t even need to be willing to become one. If you know your business and you are passionate about your product, talking about it will become second nature, and without realizing it, you’ll start selling. When you speak from the heart without sounding like a typical salesperson, people resonate with that, and they understand where you are coming from.

“You just have to feel like you’re helping someone with your product. And I think that’s the main difference.”

Get to know your data like its gospel. And from that perspective, it frames up the conversation when you’re talking to a buyer, or you’re talking to an investor, or you’re just talking to someone about why a consumer would want to buy your product.

Focus Groups

One of the reasons why people pull back from focus groups is because nobody wants to hear there is something wrong with their “baby,” there’s always that fear of what if people don’t like it? But the information you can get is so valuable; it overweighs everything else. 

Focus groups can be an eye-opener regarding how you present your product versus how the customer perceives it.

You might have a fantastic product, but a focus group allows you to make mistakes, correct them, and move forward with a better understanding of what the target wants and how to better market to your demographic.

Something as simple as the wording on your package can be the difference between reaching your potential customer or losing them, and focus groups are the way to test and see how people react to your product. 

About Clean n’ Brew

Clean n’ Brew is the first and only all-natural cleaning cup for your single-serve brewer.  It cleans your k-kup coffee machine without harsh chemicals and aftertaste.  Clean n’ Brew has proven in efficacy tests to be more effective than other cleaners that can leave harsh chemical residue in your machine.  Clean n’ Brew is available on their website, at Whole Foods, and on Amazon.

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