How-To Guide: Functional CPG & Food, Drug, Mass, Convenience

The functional consumer packaged goods (CPG) categories are primarily growing in two sales channels; digital (direct and marketplaces) and food, drug, mass, convenience (FDMC)…

In my experience, functional CPG brands are generally proficient in the basics of digital sales. The act of getting products listed for sale and driving nominal traffic to the direct to consumer site (or marketplace listings) are usually one of the earliest task sets with starting a business today, especially in CPG product categories that traditionally skew toward the 18–35 year old buyer group.

That being said, if you lined up two scenarios…

  1. Confidence the brand will achieve hyper-growth status by exclusively selling on digital

…you’d have more entrepreneurs confident in achieving the first over the second scenario. For whatever reason, the second scenario is mystifying to them.

I also understand that some functional CPG entrepreneurs (especially purists of the caps, powders, pills variety) also think that FDMC “isn’t for me”, as to say they are “above” the sales channel. You will hear them say things like…

  • “we aren’t a mass brand”

…blah blah blah. I agree, that some functional CPG brands aren’t currently made for FDMC sales accounts, but these comments aren’t coming from a well-defined strategic position…they are coming from ignorance and ego!

Fact is, the market is changing…the buyers, the brands, the products, the sales channels…

You don’t need to buy syndicated data to see that FDMC accounts like Costco, Walmart, 7-Eleven, or Albertsons are growing merchandising square footage for functional CPG categories like functional foods, functional beverages, and nutritional supplements. Simply put, if you can remember how that store was 12–18 months ago and compare it to a visit today, you can “see it” with your own eyes without data to validate you.

With all this new opportunity, it’s human nature that you want in it for your brand…but how do you get a piece of that newly allocated shelf space?

Truth is, there is no “one size fits all” approach to getting into any account. If some “expert” tries to sell you a book, e-book, mastermind course, or anything in between, please run the other way…fast!

The account could be Walmart or it could be Sam’s 5 & 10 local store down the street, it doesn’t matter because they all need a personalized sales strategy to close. Yes, some might be easier than others, but they are always going to be unique to the variables between you, your brand, that buyer, that account, and external factors.

That being said, there are tactics that can improve your probabilities of landing your target account. So, HOW do we do that?

Before we get into “HOW” we land the target account, it’s important to figure out the why, when, and where first!

WHY — this includes an inward look at what is driving this decision to expand into a larger physical retail world?

WHEN — this is mainly a question of timing based on areas like available cash flows, capitalization, internal resources, and product/channel match

WHERE — this surrounds targeting the best customer or channel that will give you a chance of building sales velocity to leverage for further expansion in the future

The strategies and tactics that will be the HOW obviously plays off the answers to the above WHY, WHEN, and WHERE questions.

Regardless of this being highly individualized, there are some things that should always be considered if the functional CPG brand is set to move forward on this sales channel expansion into FDMC accounts.

Know the Review Process

The targeted FDMC account will usually have a set review process. That review process is usually on their website or can be located through some basic prospecting. You need to be prepared and provide them with exactly what they need from live samples to documentation. Make sure to understand things like…

  • What they don’t allow

Before an In-Person Meeting, Do Your Research

Make sure you know the targeted FDMC account like the back of your hand. You should understand it from the inside and out on things like…

  • Merchandising strategy and goals for the category

If you aren’t aware of these things, try to ask your industry network for insights on these things to make sure you have the appropriate knowledge to further build your targeted presentation

Don’t Forget to Also Research the Buyer

Seeing a trend yet? Research and being prepared is paramount when you are working with FDMC accounts. Make sure you are getting down to the buyer-level on your research. Selling is and will always be relationships at its core, so be prepared for who you are meeting with at the FDMC sales target.

  • Use sources like social media (LinkedIn), taped speaking engagements or interviews

It is important to understand how the buyer approaches meetings and what he/she/they find most important — data, storytelling, product demo, presentation, and/or brass tax.

Know What Value You Can Provide

Check your ego at the door…or better yet at your office/home before you even leave for the business trip. News flash…there are thousands of substitutes for your brand/product in the market today.

  • Know your product

This is about making sure the FDMC sales target understands you are the best of that class to throw their support behind. This needs to be a win/win scenario or you shouldn’t be involved in this type of partnership.

Don’t Over-Promise and Under-Deliver

This is not about FDMC sales targets or functional CPG, this is just a simple lesson in business…

In a world where almost everything exists in one iteration or another, it usually comes down to transparency, honesty, and coming through on your word that leaves you with the best chance of long-term success in business. Remember that!

Do you want to learn more about this subject? Click on the embedded video from my YouTube channel below!

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to share with colleagues and let me know your thoughts in the comments.


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Joshua Schall, MBA

Functional CPG Business Strategist | Entrepreneurial Ideation to Commercialization Expert | Early-Stage Investor | Futurist | Sports Stat Nerd |