EP 21: Selling Food on Amazon with Ryan Yaple

Amazon has been actively working to expand the grocery and gourmet category.  In addition to acquiring Whole Foods, Amazon has been actively incentivizing sellers to make grocery items available with a fee discount for food items under $15.   Selling Food can be particularly complicated on Amazon as there are very specific guidelines about expiration dates, packaging, and meltable items.

In this episode of the Marketplace Blueprint Podcast, Robyn talks with Ryan Yaple to highlight some of the considerations before listing your food item on Amazon.  Ryan is a high volume seller that specializes in grocery items on Amazon.

Breaking into Amazon

There are several invite-only programs that attract a lot of grocery sellers like Vendor Central, Amazon Pantry, or Amazon Fresh.   Getting invites for these programs can be quite difficult.  If you have a shelf-stable product,  we recommend that you begin by offering that product on Seller Central.

Whenever possible, use Amazon’s FBA program so you can increase your total conversions.  To utilize the FBA program your product will need to be able to be stored in Amazon’s warehouses which are not climate controlled.  For this reason, Amazon limits meltables from May to October each year.

If your products need to be stored at a controlled temperature you can merchant fulfill (ship the products yourself) to your Amazon buyers.

Managing your expiration dates With Amazon FBA            

Amazon guidelines and regulations state that

To be eligible for FBA, food and beverage products and products that ship with food or beverages must be lot-controlled and have a minimum remaining shelf life that is greater than 90 days. Items within 50 days of the expiration date at the time of arrival will be marked for disposal by Amazon. Inventory subject to disposal cannot be returned to you. Amazon Seller Central 

Managing expiration dates is a crucial component when it comes to selling on Amazon.  Expired food can not only hurt your brand’s reputations, but it can also put customers at risk.

We recommend aiming towards 90 days plus on one-time consumption products. On the other hand for products such as supplements, you have to think about how long the expected consumption is going to be. Amazon specifically mentions that you need to take that into account when you’re looking at expiration dates. If you’re selling supplements and the customer will take one a day for 120 days but the expiration date is 90 days, that’s going to be a negative customer experience because they’re going to product left over past the expiration date.

The other main concern is labeling your expiration dates properly. Amazon requires products to be labeled in numerical dates in a certain format and it needs to be at least 36 points or larger. You want to make it bold, clear and fixed onto the product. And those expiration dates must be there because Amazon doesn’t use a first in, first out process, even for food. If you restock before you sell through, as you should, you will have different expiration dates on the same SKU, so it does take a lot of extra management in watching those expiration dates. Especially if you have a product that has a short shelf life.

Make your ingredients clear on your listings

You want to make sure you’re clear on what your ingredients are as well as what your product offers. Some manufacturers do change their product imagery either through rebranding or a redesign. If that does happen, you want to be certain that the ingredients are exactly the same.

If the product is materially different in any way, even if it´s the same UPC, you should create a new listing, rather than updating the old listing. This way you avoid compromising the customer experience that can it turn have a negative repercussion on your product.

Packaging your product

With any product you sell your packaging and branding is something to think about, but with food that becomes even more vital. If you’re going to be sending in chips, you’re going to have different issues than if you are sending in canned foods, especially if you’re putting them together, you need to make sure that everything that you shipped to Amazon is packaged in a way where regardless of the process it still arrives in an optimal condition to the customer. So you have to make sure that you’re protecting your product according to its nature to avoid any negative customer experiences with Amazon.

Looking for help getting started?

We work specifically with grocery manufacturers and brands to help them market more effectively on Amazon.  Reach out to us for a free call to discuss marketing your product on Amazon.

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