A Journey to Market

by RANDY YOCHUM, Supervisor of Perishables Departments, Newport Avenue Market

“Oh my God!

This is delicious…

You should sell this!”

How many times have you heard these words coming from the mouths of friends and family? How many times have you thought to yourself, “I’d sure like to do something bigger with my working life; But I just don’t know the steps that it takes?”

Those are a couple of pretty daunting questions, and it may seem like there’s a mountain in front of you. But, if you truly have a sellable product and you combine that with the right attitude, you can go far!

The first step forward in your entrepreneurial adventure is obviously product. Whether you’re a producer dealing with livestock or you make the best cookie, cake or pie in the world. Maybe you’ve got the ultimate green thumb, a knack for gardening and the wide assortment of produce or flowers that come from that side of sellable products.

Each and every item has its own path to market, and that path is rarely a straight and easy one.

At Newport Ave. Market, we routinely offer advice and direction to perspective producers. After all, it benefits us as a community to see one of our own do well. As a source for finer products in Central Oregon, we want to be the partners that handle the retail side between you the producer and the customer, or end user.

We take great pride in recognizing sellable products of good quality, and we’re highly interested in the tangibles that will make you a success in your business. These may seem obvious to some, but to others they are a cloud of mystery and darkness coming from a retailers mind. Keep in mind that we are your link to the end user — our customer. (Yes. You are now an essential part of the world of “our” customer).

As a quick example, we randomly pulled purchase numbers from just four of the many small local producers we buy from and that we’ve helped along the way with their businesses. These numbers show we’ve spent with just one company, $411,000 over the last seven years!

Our purchases from just four of these companies were nearly $800,000 with a couple of them on our shelves for as little as three years.

When talking with a potential producer, the very first thing we do is ask for a sample of the product. You have a product, we might want to sell it, but what is it? What does it taste like, feel like, smell like, etc. We have to get our hands on it and see if this is something that we can sell not only for us, but for you as well.

Secondly, we always like a story; example: who are you? What brought you to make this cookie? Oh! It’s a family recipe that goes back 400 years. Your great-grandmother brought it from Italy when she immigrated 100 years ago in 1918….COOL! (This sells your product and makes it more genuine).

Third step would be, how is it packaged? This has to be answered, and because of the nature of the individual product, it will have many different answers. I think we excel in helping with packaging; we tend to break down the product and look at it from a consumer’s point of view. If it’s a perishable or time sensitive product like meat or seafood, let us cut and wrap it for you!

Produce? Possibly no packaging necessary, but it depends on what the item is.

Now let’s say it’s a baked good, and it’s ready for the shelf like those delicious Italian cookies that your Noni made. Now we have some work ahead of us. In this situation using the cookies as an example, we’re looking at this item in a completely different manner. It’s not unusual for us to see a complete winning item that we love dearly — and it’s packaged so horribly that we run away from the product. But not before we offer advice towards what we believe will “fix” the perceived problem. Now it switches to the personality of the producer. Some producers openly accept the critique; some get downright upset that anyone could possibly have anything negative to say towards their product.

I find the later attitude unfortunate, but somewhat understandable. You’ve put your heart and soul into this item; you should be passionate about these cookies. We’re just here to get them in people’s mouths. I’m talking people other than your friends and family, so try and see this as constructive criticism. Just a few of the details of packaging that we’d be discussing are ingredients, possibly nutrition facts, considering a “local” reference. Is it gluten free? Produced in a facility that glutens are also used? Etcetera. There are a bunch of questions that must be answered.

So, once packaging details are laid out, but before we move on to the next step, one of our most important questions is raised — how much? We need to know the cost of goods just as much as you need to know the cost of producing this item, and also that you understand the difference between wholesale and retail prices.

We’ll walk you through these steps if you’d like, but we’re always hopeful that you’ve taken a good hard look at this before you’ve gotten the item as far as us. You see, this could be the “make or break” question. The cost and retail price will ultimately dictate your best opportunity to get these cookies into the customers basket. We’ll ask ourselves, is there a “value” here for our customers? Now that word “value” has a few different definitions, it could be price driven, but I think our most important value to consider, “is this right quality, for the price that will need to be commanded?” Yes! We’re moving on to the final stages.

So everything is going along beautifully, and we’re now entering the final stretch on your road to being an entrepreneur. We’ll now ask you to reach out to the Oregon Department of Agriculture. This includes being sure you are working with and approved by the local health inspector, this would also include label approval. We’ll ask that you are licensed to do business within the State of Oregon and also that you are properly insured. Furthermore, we’ll have you provide us with a written policy and procedure in the unlikely event of a recall. This could take a little time depending on availability of the ODA representative.

Once this long journey is completed, it’s time to get those cookies on the shelf! We’d like you to come in, do tasting demos and tell your story; after all, nobody should be as excited as you are to tell your story to a perspective customer. When you tell that person your story, and they’re happily eating a mouth full of your yummy cookie, this is a pretty exciting win.

And you’re now on your way to success!

photos courtesy of Newport Avenue Market

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