For an outsider looking in at the world of high quality food, new product selection can seem very glamorous. It elicits images of traveling the world, visiting factories, and sampling exotic and delicious new dishes. But this is becoming less and less true. In reality, finding new products today rarely involves traveling.
New product selection is based less on visiting innovative new suppliers, and more on analyzing the numbers; identifying the products that are trending, products that customers are already looking for, and ones they will be looking for soon. To find new products, we identify a new trend or category and find the best suppliers using modern research tools.
Three years ago we realized that most of our new products were failing. We had to rethink our strategy. Finding new products that were simply â€œof high qualityâ€ was no longer good enough.
Finding a Job for the Product
A product must have a job, just like every employee must. Unless you carefully define a job for the new product, all products will look good and almost every single one will fail. At Qualifirst, we realized we needed to put more resources into product selection and we had to think differently. We hired a person whose job was solely dedicated to looking for new products, and who consequently would not be distracted by other tasks.
The Selection Process
For every new product, our selection process has five steps:
- We do a preliminary analysis based on product and price to see if the product has a chance in the market. We have to eliminate the many suppliers that think Qualifirst can sell 250ml of olive oil for $30.00 and 250g of jam for $20.00. The market just can’t support that.
- We obtain samples to evaluate the quality.
- We do a market analysis to see where this product fits, how it fits into our strategy, how much effort it would take to sell it, and whether this would be worthwhile.
- If a product passes all of the above tests, we then begin the negotiation process with the supplier.
- We work on the marketing aspect â€“ the labels and product information â€“ to make sure the new product hits the ground running when it arrives.
This process can take up to a year. We only take on a few new products every year, since we all need to become specialists in every new product we introduce.
We also invite our employees, customers and blog followers to suggest new products based on what you know about us, our products and what you see in the stores and the internet. Every suggestion is welcome. The only bad suggestion is the one that is not made.
photo courtesy of gourmetretailer