How to sell to vendors?

Discussion in 'Professional Pastry Chefs' started by lotuscakestudio, Aug 14, 2001.

  1. lotuscakestudio

    lotuscakestudio

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    I had to do a vegan wedding cake last month and the bride also asked for 200 vegan truffles for favors. I experimented and had everyone I know taste my concotion and received rave reviews. The bride loved them and the non-vegan guests were fooled. Since then I've been making them a lot and even gotten wonderful feedback that they are better than Godiva (and they use milk chocolate and cream!) Also things like, "Your truffles have personality". (Whatever that means, but it's better than truffles that don't have personality). And now, everyone is telling me I should have them carried in stores. I feel pretty confidant that I have a great product. I even found the perfect boxes I would sell them in. Now how do I sell them? There are a lot of restaurants and health food stores that are specifically vegan. So at least I know who I should be talking to. But what do I say exactly? "Hi, I make vegan truffles *pop one into owner's mouth*, taste good? Please sell them in your store." Hehe. I have a feeling there's more to it than that. I think this would be a great way for me to make money when wedding cakes are slow in the fall and winter, and when cakes pick up again, people don't want chocolate so much anyway, so it'll be balanced out. I was even thinking of selling these through my web site too (of course, only for late fall to early spring shipments). Anyhow, any advice would be greatly appreciated. :)
     
  2. breadster

    breadster

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    do you have Whole Foods Markets or Wild Oats Markets nearby? Whole Foods especially markets health foods products and are fairly open to bringing in good products that are hard to find- such as vegan- they do have their own bakeries but often bring in others'
    items- i dont know if truffles would be in the grocery or bakery dept - but a call or visit to find out who the buyer is- is a first step- these are large chains with a lot of political mumbo jumbo- perhaps a local health food store might be less intimidating, demanding and a better way to test the waters - you wont know till you try- at the worst you might feel foolish and out of your league- at best, you'll learn as you go and just might land an account or two

    i say go for it- as long as it is to supplement your other work
     
  3. breadster

    breadster

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    do you have Whole Foods Markets or Wild Oats Markets nearby? Whole Foods especially markets health foods products and are fairly open to bringing in good products that are hard to find- such as vegan- they do have their own bakeries but often bring in others'
    items- i dont know if truffles would be in the grocery or bakery dept - but a call or visit to find out who the buyer is- is a first step- these are large chains with a lot of political mumbo jumbo- perhaps a local health food store might be less intimidating, demanding and a better way to test the waters - you wont know till you try- at the worst you might feel foolish and out of your league- at best, you'll learn as you go and just might land an account or two

    i say go for it- as long as it is to supplement your other work
     
  4. breadster

    breadster

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    i just reread your initial post- and yes- sometimes you just have to go to the owner and pop one in his mouth!
     
  5. shroomgirl

    shroomgirl

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    I had a friend sell her truffles through a store, they did not monitor freshness. With your reputation being tied to the truffles it's really imporant that the quality in storing remains high. Sampling will sell your product....either work a deal to have someone sell/sample them out during busy times or do that yourself. Not every store is the same....look not only for stores that would be able to sell a high ticket specialty item(that gives you a good wholesale return) but what about their staffing and equipment. How long is the shelf life? who monitors quality? Special orders from customers? My chocolater friend keeps stock frozen and sells direct or through country clubs who hire her for her cakes and pastries.
    Direct selling holiday giftboxes through the mail...
     
  6. w.debord

    w.debord

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    Yes, you do just that. You can call first for an appointment but that often doesn't open the door. Just like at all restuarants they have people enter cold and ask to speak to the chef (in your case ask to speak to the owner or buyer for the store). Have a pricelist and or some info. you can leave them with your name and number. Tastings are really the only way to get them to buy, it's pretty rare they would buy anything with-out a free sample. It's also nice to give them more than one item to taste so they can get a employees opinion too as to whether it's the right product for them. Sometimes that employee will push the owner into the sale better than you ever could.


    A couple other ideas... I used to sell my fine art and limited edition prints wholesale (as well as retail) and its really not hard to do. It does take time, a small finaical investment and ALOT of assertiveness but buyers doors are always open. They need new products and ideas twice a year in the retail business. Just remember you need to commit to this and give it time. You probably will need to knock on alot of doors to collect enough buyers to keep you busy. It's abit of playing the odds, sooner or later you'll get buyers.

    You can sell your truffles at craft shows. Although I need to explain these are not cheap flea market types of shows. Contact your citys' and neighbooring towns Ladies Junior league. They have fund raising
    events and have people sell their products (for a fee) through their events. Some of them are very classie black tie events.

    Also what about the fancy food show? There is one held in Chicago yearly and I'm sure other cities have them too. You pay for a both space and set up a little display. Not everyone has big fancy expensive booths. That's a great way of making wholesale contacts. You can set your own terms, just like other companys do. You also can buy the registered mailing list from the show and send out your own mailings to these professional buyers. Besides the gourmet food show theirs smaller gift shows that sell food items too. Because their are gift stores like florists that sell chocolates too.

    Also couldn't you sell them at your local farmers market?
     
  7. lotuscakestudio

    lotuscakestudio

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    Thanks for all the input!

    I still need to do a lot more experimenting to determine the shelf life. You will all think I’m nuts, but it’s hard for me to figure these things out b/c I can’t actually eat any of what I make. I’m allergic to chocolate. So I can’t just taste it for myself to see if it’s still fresh. I have to round up a bunch of friends to get enough feedback. I’m still looking to make friends with someone who actually knows chocolate and has a discerning palate, just to have a critic. (Anyone live near Philadelphia?) I’ve stored them in the fridge for up to 4 weeks so far and supposedly, they’re just as good as day 1. This brings on a next set of questions that I’ll put in another thread to keep this one on topic.

    Breadster, funny that you mention Whole Foods b/c that’s where I work! Hehe. It’s where I got my start in pastry 4 years ago. After going to culinary school, working for other people, then working for myself for a while, I’m back there again, (just started 2 months ago) but just 2 days a week for the 20% discount on my groceries. Gotta love that! :) So I planned to start there first for selling my truffles, but I was still at a loss for what to say. Especially since I’m hardly there and it wasn’t until recently did I even know who the grocery manager was! (Chocolates get sold in that dept.) If I knew her, I think I would be more comfortable. I don’t think there’s too much red tape for the buyers. If they like something and think it will sell, they can just buy it. A friend of mine owns a vegetarian restaurants that caters to a lot of vegans so that is another place to go, and a friend of mine is a chef for a vegan restaurant, so it’s just a matter of approaching the owner, but at least she introduced me to him once before. There are also a good amount of co-ops and mom & pop type of health food stores and tons of vegetarian restaurants. I was also thinking to place a small ad in the local vegetarian society’s newsletter. The ad space is pretty pricey considering only 1,000 copies get printed, but at least I’d be reaching the right 1,000 people.

    I was already planning on bringing a lot of samples. They would never sell otherwise. I think a fancy food show is more than what I can handle. If I got local stores to carry them and I did some sales through my web site, I’d be pretty happy with that. I had no idea you could sell something like truffles at farmers markets. I’ve only been to 2 of them and all I remember is produce and that’s about it. Oh yeah, and a wheat grass juice stand. I’ll definitely look into the ones in my area b/c from what I hear, a booth is pretty darn cheap.

    Now I’m off to start my “all about truffles” thread. Once again, thanks so much for the input! Once I get everything down, I’ll start working on getting the courage to approach buyers. *gulp!*