Greg Seminara, Export Solutions

The USA represents the world’s largest market. A small market share in the USA can represent a bigger business than owning a 50 % market share in a smaller country. Many international brands fail to reach their potential in the USA as they treat it as just another export market. Listed below are Export Solutions 10 Tips for improving your results in the USA, a consumer market of 335 million people.

1. Develop a Channel Strategy– The USA Food business is segmented into 13 channels, with supermarkets claiming an average of 50 % of the business. Other important channels include Supercenters, Mass, Foodservice, Value, Club, Convenience, Natural, Gourmet, Military, Gift, E-commerce, and Ethnic. One strategy is to concentrate efforts on winning in one channel to gain traction, versus spreading efforts in too many areas.

2. Focus on Top 10 USA Retailers– Think Walmart, Kroger ,Albertsons, Publix , and Food Lion that all operate more than 1,000 stores.  Many companies claim that they “Sell to Walmart”. The key question is to identify a chains store count and measure how many of those stores your brand is available in. Last year, an important European beverage brand told me that they were selling to Walmart. The results of their follow-up investigation revealed that they were selling to only 46 of Walmart’s 3,700 supercenters.

3. Think beyond New York – None of the top 5 grocery retailers maintain a presence in metro New York. The USA has experienced a population shift to the South and West , with the Northeast actually representing  the smallest of the four regions. Visit Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, or Miami to get a more accurate gauge of industry dynamics.

4. Use a Broker– In the USA, the brokers play a unique role, touching virtually every brand in the supermarket aisles. Even distributors use brokers to supplement their own efforts. Export Solutions database tracks 559 USA food brokers, including the “Big 3”.

5. Retail Services are Required– Great news ! You just received a listing at Kroger or Shop Rite. Your work has just begun. Planogram integrity is an enormous issue in the USA. Compliance levels of new items at store level may reach only 60 % without a broker at store level to “cut in” your product and monitor its availability.

6.Data Driven Decisions– The USA market is blessed with the most sophisticated analytic terms that are used on a daily basis. This includes availability of point of sale data at the chain ( and sometimes store)level to measure everything that scans. Business building and selling incorporates use of post promotion analytic tools, market basket studies, and brand sales by demographic cluster.

7. Try a Coupon– USA Sunday newspapers are jammed with coupons offering consumers small discounts (.25 – $1.00) to purchase a product. Many supermarkets up the ante, by doubling the value of the coupons. This is a proven strategy to drive listings, generate trial, and repeat purchase.  A coupon can force a retailer to carry your product , as he does not want to disappoint a customer with a coupon.

8. Hire a Sales Manager– An international company should place at least one person in the USA to manage their interests. Hire a veteran sales person and  locate him in a home office in a city with a great airport like Atlanta or Chicago . This role will allow him to manage your distributor and broker network . You can also hire a contract sales management group like Ram to perform this function. Hiring an employee signals that you are serious about building your brand in the USA.
9. TPR – This stands for Temporary Price Reduction. USA supermarket aisles are filled with hundreds of these tags. The consumer recognizes these tags to signal a special discount and “time to buy”. TPR’s are normally at least 10 % of your everyday price and can be an efficient spend particularly on a “scan down” program.

10. Ethnic Channel : First Stop– Your product will be well received in channels specializing in your countries products. There are well established retailers specializing in Hispanic, Asian, British and Italian Foods. Whole Foods and Cost Plus World Markets offer good assortments of international brands.
The USA market thrives on new product innovation. Fortunately, the stores are large, with  an average of 40,000 products stocked. Contact Export Solutions for more strategies on penetrating the growing USA market.