Customisation is the key to commercial success in many niche markets, and food production and distribution is no exception.
Firstly, let's take on board that customised food products offer plenty of advantages for top-end distributors. Why should this be? How can customising certain foods, often produced lovingly by highly skilled artisans and smaller producers, ever improve your offering to customers?
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Well, so long as the foodstuffs themselves are not cheapened or made worse in any way, then a customised version is potentially something that will stand out from the crowd or attract a renewal of interest in a brand.
It could even help you open up new accounts in sectors previously untapped by your firm. In short, customised food products give you the opportunity to sell something 'new' rather than a mere 'me too' product.
Vintage and Reserve Products
If you think about customisation of artisan food and drinks as meddling in a well-established production method, then it is hard to see why it can add any value to your offering as a distributor.
After all, so many producers sell their products on the basis that their ingredients and methods are tested over time, perhaps even over several generations. However, this does not mean that the quality of production is always uniform.
In wine production, this concept is very well known – and embraced, even. Changes in the soil, the amount of sunlight in a particular growing season and the quality of grapes at harvest time will inevitably lead to differentials in colour, fragrance and – most importantly – flavour from year to year. Vintage years are marked out from others and the wine produced is marketed as such. Equally, some grapes offer a superior quality to others even within the same vineyard and the best ones tend to be used for so-called reserve wine.
The point is that these products are not exactly customised, but they are different and reflect no downgrade compared with normal production. The same can be seen in cheese production, depending on factors like milk quality, or olive oil production, where different pressings make a significant impact.
Sometimes, producers choose to customise their product labels to make their highest quality production stand out. Overall consumers appreciate these customised visual indicators of quality and distributors should engage with it rather than only buying standard products.
Limited Edition Foodstuffs
Sometimes producers will customise their labelling in order to demonstrate that what they have produced is a speciality. For example, a balsamic vinegar of a particular flavour might be produced to mark an anniversary in the business. Special edition beer might be brewed to celebrate a national festival or another event. When artisan food is produced in limited edition, it can lead to a sense of moment or special occasion when it is consumed.
Ideally, customised labels will indicate a short production run with numbered products that mark them out individually, adding to their allure. Clients are commonly willing to pay a premium price for a limited edition foodstuff.
Furthermore, once your customers become familiar with the foodstuff in question, they may well demand more of the normal product which can lead to increased sales down the line.
Modern packaging is able to do so much more than conveying food from producer to consumer. It can reinforce a brand and even provide additional information about the producer if so-called 'smart packaging' is deployed – the sort of thing that can be scanned by smart devices.
In terms of customisation, many good food producers can prepare products that offer individualised packaging for certain clients, such as alternative languages or different images.
A good example of the process would be if one of your customers runs a gourmet food products shop chain. What about putting their brand on individual packets of condiments that go alongside the producer's marque? If food is considered 'appellation d'origine contrôlée', or AOC, then co-branding can really work for both client and producer meaning that the distributor ends up in a win-win situation.
Tailored and Bespoke Products
Customisation usually means a short run of a production method or a packaging style which marks the product out from others made by the same producer.
However, for food distributors there can be another aspect to consider: one-off food products. These might be for marketing purposes, such as an oversized bottle of oil for a trade show.
Anything that is customised to such a degree that it is a novelty has the benefit to distributors of being distinct and eye-catching. Getting noticed by potential clients – even if it is due to a novelty food product – is the name of the game, after all.