Strategic Entry: Taking Ethical Brands into the Out-of-Home Landscape

Phil McMahon | B2B

Strategic Entry: Taking Ethical Brands into the Out-of-Home Landscape

Phil McMahon | B2B
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The UK Out-of-Home (OOH) sector offers a wealth of opportunities for start-up FMCG brands with strong ethical and sustainability credentials. From bustling cafes and workplace restaurants to tranquil spas and luxury hotels, these outlets are an excellent platform for innovative products to catch the eye of consumers. Yet, carving out a space for new entrants can be a significant challenge. Successfully placing your brand in the OOH sector hinges on more than just the appeal of your product itself; it requires a strategic alignment with the values and atmosphere of the outlets you’re targeting. Each type of OOH outlet has a unique set of priorities and values that influence their purchasing decisions, and understanding these is the key to establishing a fruitful partnership. Here’s how you can make a compelling case for your brand.

Challenge - Aligning with Outlet Values:

When approaching an outlet, it’s critical to show that your product not only offers quality but also complements and enhances their current range, meeting their customers' expectations.

Before making a pitch, thoroughly research each potential outlet (ideally, by visiting). Tailor your presentation to mirror their values. Take a herbal tea brand as an example: for a spa, the pitch could centre on the tea's organic ingredients and holistic health benefits, aligning with the spa's wellness focus. Conversely, for a workplace canteen, the emphasis might shift to the convenience of the tea's quick-serve teabag format, catering to the fast-paced nature of the setting.


Differentiating Your Product:

For startup FMCG brands entering the dynamic OOH sector, standing out is as critical as it is challenging—especially for those championing sustainability and ethical production. The key to distinction lies in effectively communicating what sets your product apart.

Emphasise your product’s unique aspects. What does it offer that competitors don’t, and can you link this to a broader consumer trend? It could be a proprietary ingredient, a cutting-edge method of production, or a deep-seated commitment to environmental and social stewardship. Consider, as an illustration, a niche coffee company. They could focus their narrative on their exclusive direct trade policies, painting a picture for buyers of the direct, positive impact on the livelihoods of local coffee growers.

Price Point Concerns

For eco-conscious FMCG brands, the challenge is to validate higher prices within the cost-sensitive OOH sector, where price affects profit margins.

Convince outlets that while your products may cost more upfront, they offer long-term value and align with sustainable practices. Emphasise value over cost. Take eco-friendly packaging — it's not just an expense but an investment in sustainability that can boost reputation and reduce future waste management costs. Articulate this effectively, and OOH outlets will be better positioned to explain and justify the premium to their customers.


Assuring Consistent Supply

Buyers seek the assurance that comes with consistent stock levels, a concern heightened during peak trading periods.

Provide this reassurance with a robust supply chain strategy. For brands emphasising sustainability and ethics, it's crucial to dispel any myths of supply chain vulnerability. Consider a granola bar brand catering to health-focused outlets such as gyms and wellness centres, where memberships — and thus demand for healthy snacks — usually surge after the new year. The brand can showcase its strong local supplier relationships and a dynamic distribution model, ready to adjust production in line with seasonal consumption patterns.


Meeting Operational Requirements

OOH operators often have specific needs that may not be catered for by your product’s retail format.

Demonstrate your understanding of OOH operations and adapt your product's format to match. Offer products that are easy to store, prepare, and serve.
For example, A premium sea salt company might typically sell small, elegantly packaged containers for retail consumers. However, to cater to chefs in busy kitchens, the same brand could offer their salt in large, robust tubs that are both economical and convenient for frequent, high-volume use. Conversely, for restaurants aiming for a premium dining experience, the brand could supply single-serve sachets that maintain the luxury feel while being practical for table use.


Proving Consumer Demand

Buyers will need more than anecdotes and samples to be convinced your product is a good fit for their outlets.

Build a compelling case for your product using solid evidence relevant to the OOH sector. Suppose you produce an artisanal kombucha already popular in boutique health food shops and online. Instead of merely stating its popularity, provide concrete OOH sales growth figures, evidence of an engaged online community, and authentic customer testimonials. Supplement these with predictive analytics, such as Really Good Culture’s Breakthrough Score, to forecast an upward trajectory, especially in environments such as wellness cafes and resorts, where your product's characteristics meet consumer demand.


The journey into the OOH sector holds vast potential for rewards, offering a promising avenue for ethical and sustainable FMCG products. With thoughtful strategies that address the challenges above, you can pave the way for your products to thrive. Remember, each OOH outlet is looking for products that not only sell or enhance service delivery, but also add value to their brand. By demonstrating how your products align with their goals and the desires of their customers, you'll not only gain shelf space but also build meaningful partnerships. Keep pushing forward with confidence and clarity—your brand has something special that these outlets need. It's just a matter of communicating that effectively and building the right relationships.

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