August 29, 2018

Emerging Brands – Six Common Pitfalls to Avoid – Advice from a Retailer

Introducing a new brand to the marketplace can be equal parts excitement and frustration. Joshua Dooley of QFC/Kroger shares his insights and advice on six common pitfalls for emerging brands that can make the difference between flourishing and vanishing. Joshua is one of many retailers and mentors who support the FMI Emerge community.

Being Inconsistent

Established brands have the latitude to make changes to quality, sizing, packaging and core ingredients. However, a failure to maintain consistency or rebranding too quickly can make or break a new product or label.

If you have a great product in a great package, stand by it, but be realistic about the need to change when the time comes. Just don’t be too quick to abandon what inspired you in the first place.


Apologizing when you’re wrong is almost always the right thing to do.

Apologizing for your costs, your branding, your message or your vision, however, is not. Once you’ve invested in yourself, your brand or your product, do not allow yourself to compromise what got you there.

Work to set the best possible cost without compromising who and what you are. Know what the median cost will be for you to succeed, and don’t lose sight of that number.

Being Unyielding

At first glance, this may seem to contradict that first admonition to be consistent, but it’s not.

If you’re fortunate, you will work with many kinds of retailers. Being unyielding, applying a “one size fits all” approach to every one of them, can lead to quick rejection.

For example, a brand may ask for a legal contract to prevent misrepresentation, misuse of their branding, etc. While these documents are valuable with an unproven retailer, they can be an insult to a proven one.

Retailers change plans and promotions as quickly as the market demands. Know what your retailer wants in terms of your promotional efforts, and don’t be afraid to shift as circumstances change.

Being nimble is valuable. Being ready and willing is even better.


Retailers move quickly and they expect the new supplier or brand to know what they can deliver at what speed. At the same time, there is a fear on the part of the new brand that a retailer will abandon you, Shark Tank-style, if they sense “you’re not ready.”

Knowing when you’re truly ready to launch or grow is essential. Do you have adequate manufacturing? Logistics? Demo support staff and promotional funds? Are you really ready?

This is a business of risk, but calculated risk.

Ignoring Trends

You may have the best possible product in your category, but do not ignore potential attributes that could increase demand or trust in your brand.

Could your product be made with organic ingredients? Can it be classified as non-GMO? Is it inherently gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, dairy-free? If so, apply for, pay for, or work for whatever it takes to get that added to your label.

If the product is labeled “fair trade,” for example, customers may connect, not just your company’s, but the retailer’s business practices with equitable treatment of its labor force.

Consider every certification you reasonably can, assess the cost and investment of time or resources necessary, and stay current with the sensibilities of your consumers.

Being Slow to React or Communicate

Food safety issues, including recalls, must be communicated immediately and retailers must be given all necessary information as quickly as possible to retain or restore consumer and retailer confidence.

Close the loop quickly. Even after the issue is handled, pick up the phone and call your local retail contacts immediately. Then send an e-mail. Over-communicate in any situation that can put consumers, or their confidence in you or the retailer, at risk.

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