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International teams functioned in
survival mode for the last three years.
Most remained anchored to the home
office solving supply shortages
and executing price increases via
impersonal Teams meetings. A fresh
approach is required as the survival
strategies of 2019-2022 do not serve
as an acceleration platform moving
forward. 2023 signals the time to shift
from “maintain to gain” by getting on
the plane. Export Solutions shares our
ten tactics for a warm welcome back.
Strategy Renewal
A new Lessons Learned exercise is
critical at this pivot point. New
consumer habits and retail prices
may cause us to shuffle our country
prioritization ranking. Countries and
distributors that were leaders prior to
the pandemic may be categorized as
laggards now. Resource allocation
between mature and emerging markets
must be calibrated. Digital strategies
are for today, not the future.
How can you build a relationship and
a partnership with an international
distributor without seeing each other?
It’s tough to conceive a new brand
strategy if you have not been in the
same room for three years! A major
theme for 2023 is to reconnect
with your distributor teams in their
home markets.
Insights to Accelerate International Expansion
Winter 2023
Volume 15 Issue 1
Our Mission: Help Manufacturers “Spend time Selling to Distributors versus Searching for Distributors”
In This Issue
Database covers
2,845 Retailers
Export Solutions retailer database now
reaches 96 countries. Our point of
difference is coverage of an average of
25 customers per country, not just the
4 or 5 everyone already knows. Features
include one click access to retailers’ web
shops for online price checks and weekly
special offer fliers. Examples: UAE
coverage extends to 35 retailers, 126 in
Canada, 58 in the UK, and 47 retailers in
Australia. For free sample access and
subscription information, please visit
Welcome Back
Page 2
Real FaceTime
Page 3
Introducing USA Food Export Group
Page 4
Why Distributors?
Page 5
Can We Help You?
Page 6
Road Map to the World
Page 8
Ex-Selling at E-Commerce
Page 10
Getting a Distributor
to Love Your Brand
Page 11
Export Manager Report Card
continued on page 7
International development evolved into
a business management process defined
by a packed calendar of Teams and Zoom
meetings. Export managers adjusted to lower
tier frequent flier status and the short
commute from your bedroom office to a
home cooked dinner. Surviving the Covid era
deserves a badge of honor. However, it’s a
mistake to adapt remote-based export as the New Normal strategy.
Intimacy is a requirement to thrive in 2023. I remind my clients that some of the best deals
are closed after 9:00 pm. There are few bonding activities in business more important
than a lively dinner at a nice restaurant with a distributor or customer. In the last few
months, I have resumed globe-trotting with a buoyant outcome. Distributor dinners are
celebrations, the resumption of treasured relationships. Distributor conferences resemble
a loud family reunion with everyone genuinely happy to see each other after a gap.
Looking to rekindle your international relationships? Here are five strategies to reignite
the flame of distributor passion for your company.
1. Distributor Visits to All Core Countries
Revert to the trusted practice of “showing up.” Conduct store visits with the sales team
and dinner with the distributor CEO. Walk around the distributor office and warehouse,
handing out small gifts with your company logo. Shaking hands and “kissing babies” is
all part of the job of securing distributor focus on your priorities.
2. Regional Distributor Meetings
Distributors love these events in first-class locations. For the brand owner, it’s an
efficient tactic to secure the undivided attention of your sales team for two to three days.
The key is a mix of distributor sharing of case studies mixed with fun social events.
Everyone loves to win awards. Make new memories!
3. Form a Distributor Advisory Council
It is an honor to serve on a distributor advisory council. Linking top distributors with
exposure to your senior management team creates a special bond between the two
companies. Members of your advisory council always achieve their sales objectives.
4. Training
Many companies have invested in new brand portals, digital marketing content, and
product innovation. Conduct a training session as part of a distributor group meeting
to increase your visibility. Make the training fun and you will win their loyalty.
5. Connect With Every Distributor CEO
A first quarter must is to speak with every distributor CEO. Inquire about their outlook
for the year and planned investments and changes. Use the opportunity to reinforce
your priorities for the year and to confirm your visit dates.
Many export managers will remain glued to their desks and show up only for the
global trade fairs and still perform adequately. Leaders will return to the road for REAL
FaceTime with core stakeholders. This engagement will allow us to experience the
warmth of our relationships and distinguish between Zoom promises and retail reality.
Good luck!
Strategic Services
Contact Us for
Export Solutions
1. Identify Best in Class
Distributors: 96 Countries
2. Best Practices
Export Strategy
3. Distributor Management
4. Export 101:
Let’s Get Started
5. New Market
and Launch Plan
6. Personal Distributor
96 Countries
7. Walmart International
8. Distributor Contracts,
Margins, and Fees
9. Meeting Speaker
10. International
Strategy Expert
Strategic Services
Contact Us for
Export Solutions
1. Identify Best in Class
Distributors: 96 Countries
2. Best Practices
Export Strategy
3. Distributor Management
4. Export 101:
Let’s Get Started
5. New Market
and Launch Plan
6. Personal Distributor
96 Countries
7. Walmart International
8. Distributor Contracts,
Margins, and Fees
9. Meeting Speaker
10. International
Strategy Expert
Greg Seminara
“Spend Time Selling to Distributors versus Searching for Distributors”
Real FaceTime
19 Companies | 200+ Top Brands | $85 Billion Combined
Connect | Learn | Share | Grow
View our activities for export managers – www.usafoodexport.com
America’s Favorite Brands
Executive Board
Export Solutions Smuckers Tabasco
Greg Seminara, CEO Danny Berrios, President Emeritus Megan Lopez, President
General Mills Sun-Maid
Eric Saint-Marc, Vice-President Carsten Tietjen, Vice-President Elect
Blue Diamond Campbells Church & Dwight
Dale Tipple Julio Gomez Arun Hiranandani
Program Directors (*also members of the Advisory Board)
Ferarra Candy Kao USA
Daniel Michelena, Latin America – Florida Chapter Julie Toole, Women in Export
Advisory Board
Bazooka Candy Bush Beans Duracell Heartland
Santiago Ricaurte Dave Bauman William Vera Tom Theobald
Idahoan Johnsonville Sausage KDRP –Motts
Ryan Ellis Cory Bouck Billy Menendez
Mizkan Reynolds Welch’s
Noel David Brent Flavo Marc Rosen
Why Distributors?
Distributors offer an integrated, local solution versus selling direct to customers via an offshore subsidiary. Export Solutions
database covers 9,400 distributors, an average of 87 per country, validating their essential role in every country.
Distributor Subsidiary
Cost Variable cost model Fixed Cost Model
Critical Mass Scale = Revenue Costly for one company
Local “Native” presence Short-term expats?
Entrepreneurship Owners Employees
Focus Serves multiple brands Dedicated
Geographic Coverage National Major cities only
Customer Relationships Long standing, cross functional Frequent turnover
Omni Channel All channel opportunities Costly for one company
Specialization Local category experts Global category experts
Compliance Masters local laws/practices Requires outside counsel
Complexity Handles through scale Costly to manage
Category Habits “Lives” local habits Research-based understanding
Continuity Dedicated to one country Dedicated to “home” country
Marketing Local activation Global activation
Retail Servicing Invests in core service Frequently outsourced
Delivers annual results.
Long-term focus.
Delivers annual results.
Short-term focus.
Distributor Search Guide
Export Strategy Guide
Selling to USA Handbook
All guides available free at www.exportsolutions.com in the Export Tips section.
Export Scorecard Guide
New Distributor Cooperation
Model Guide
“From First Meeting to First Order”
Create Your Own Export Library
Distributor Search Helper for:
Can We Help You?
Recent Distributor Search Projects
Asia Europe Middle East Latin America
Australia Germany Israel Argentina
China Ireland Kuwait Brazil
Indonesia Netherlands Qatar Colombia
Japan Nordics Saudi Arabia Costa Rica
Malaysia Spain UAE Ecuador
Philippines United Kingdom North America Mexico
Singapore Africa Canada Panama
South Korea South Africa United States Peru
Call the Export Accelerator!
Contact Greg Seminara at greg@exportsolutions.com
to discuss your business development project.
Road Map to the World
What is the profile of your best performing export countries? Most companies sell to a mix of markets from neighboring
countries to places with high GDP or category development. An essential task is to segment countries by type and allocate
resources according to the size of the prize. What is your export sales split by market type today? Future?
Type Description Examples
Adjacent country with
similar lifestyle habits.
USA & Canada
Germany & Austria
International destinations
for your countries’ expats.
Australia: UK & Italian brands
Brasil: Portugal & Japan
Island countries dependent
on overseas suppliers.
Caribbean, Malta,
Iceland, Cyprus
Follow Global Partner to
overseas countries.
Walmart, Amazon, Costco,
Carrefour, Ahold, Metro
Region where your brand
enjoys visibility and scale.
South America, Middle East,
Eastern Europe, SE Asia
Universal platform. Unlimited
assortment in cyber space.
Coupang: S Korea
Mercado Libre: Latam
Category Champion
Countries with high
category development.
Tea: UK & Ireland
Cereal: Mexico
Money Markets
Countries with high GDP and
per capita spending.
USA, Western Europe,
Saudi Arabia, Singapore
Big Bets-Many Mouths
Large population countries
requiring strategic investment.
USA, China, India, Indonesia,
Brasil, Mexico
Trading. Sell at net price.
Avoid diverting.
Anywhere. Ship to destination.
E-Commerce Excellence
E-commerce has reached critical mass in
many countries. It is crystal clear that this
powerful channel will only become more
significant. In Asian countries like China
and South Korea, e-commerce is rapidly
becoming the primary outlet for imported
brands. Create an e-commerce business
plan for each country with activities,
budget, and monthly reporting metrics.
Treat Amazon as a global customer like
Carrefour or Walmart. Share best practices
from your corporate headquarters.
Big Bet
There is a difference between strategic
brand building and tactical exports. All
companies should identify one “Big Bet”
country with a significant size of the
prize. Attractive targets include highly
populated countries, with healthy category
development. Exporters must “walk the
talk” in a challenging big bet country by
investing in brand marketing activities,
local manager, and product innovations
aligned with consumer habits.
Asia Rebound
Asia emerged from lockdown in late 2022,
at least one year behind other regions.
Drivers such as young populations and
new middle class have resumed their
upward trajectory. Southeast Asian
countries like Vietnam, Thailand, and
the Philippines are future stars. Japan,
South Korea, and Taiwan are rich
countries with large stores and good
potential, especially for USA companies.
Distributor Change
Many distributors thrived during the
pandemic, benefitting from the shift to
meals prepared at home. Others suffered,
as core channels and gourmet-priced
brands lost relevancy. Distributor change
is a last resort, but every team has at least
one partner that is a chronic under
performer and not a good fit for the
future. Begin today, as the transition
period to a new distributor may require
one year to implement.
Is the Store a 10?
The supermarket is a product showroom
where export dreams are translated to
financial reality. How do you determine a
good store presence for your brand versus
a bad one? Each member of your distributor
sales force should maintain a clear
understanding of your in-store placement
and off-shelf merchandising objectives.
Export Solutions has designed a program
called Is the Store a 10? to allow all the
capability to evaluate store conditions for
any brand based upon a simple 1 to 10
scoring system.
Beyond the Brand Promotions
Exporters repeat the same boring price
discount trade promotions year after
year. The world has changed, with
supermarkets looking for unique special
offers tailored to their customers, not
the general market. Challenge your
distributors to create fresh promotional
offerings around meal solutions, country
of origin, or a retailer’s favorite charity.
Try something new!
Selling to the USA
All international brands claim sales to
the USA, but struggle to gain scale in this
attractive country of 335 million people.
Our retailer database tracks 418 USA
customers, all looking for unique new
food items. The path forward requires
that overseas brands play by USA rules
with brokers’ slotting fees supported by a
USA-based country manager.
People Power
Human resource allocation may equal
marketing investment as a tool to drive
export development. “Distributors
respect what the brand owners inspect.”
Consider strategies such as appointing
a manager dedicated to launching new
markets or global e-commerce. Hire
people in growth hubs like Bangkok,
Jeddah, or Mexico City versus expensive
expatriate destinations such as Singapore.
Increased headquarter-based supply-
chain support is critical as managers
return to the road.
Can We Help You?
Why do companies use Export Solutions
consulting services? Export Solutions
serves as a “hands on”accelerator,
quickly helping companies find
distributor solutions worldwide.
We are able to help, through the world’s
leading global distributor rolodex,
with relationships created through
300+ projects on five continents.
Export Solutions maintains a single-
minded focus on the distributor search
process “from first meeting to first order.”
Recent projects ranged from Thailand
and Taiwan to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
Europe and the Americas represent core
areas too, with projects in Italy and the
UK as well as Argentina, Peru and, of
course, the USA and Canada. Consider
subscribing to our popular database
covering 9,400 category specific distributors
and 2,845 retailers in 96 countries.
Welcome Back
continued from page 1
2023 Winning Strategies
Geographic • Big Bet: Choose Focus Country
• Accelerate USA Development for Overseas Brands
• Asia Rebound: Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines
• Saudi Arabia & the Gulf
• E-Commerce KPIs
• In-Store Visibility: Is This Store a 10?
• Listing Maps – Every Country
Team • Reconnect: Increase Market Visits
• Upgrade Underperforming Distributors
• People Power: Shift Resources to New Business Development
E-commerce now accounts for five percent of USA omnichannel
sales, up 40% in the last year according to Nielsen. This includes
almost $12 billion sold through online grocers. No one can
accurately gauge how big e-commerce will become, but it is safe
to predict that it will be much, much bigger in the next five years.
Billion-dollar multinationals and scrappy start-ups are attacking
this channel with vigor, widening the performance gap versus
successful national brands. In China and India, e-commerce
accounts for a majority of the sales for many imported products.
Read Export Solutions’ ten tips for capturing your fair share of
the growth in this strategic channel.
1. Conduct E-Commerce Survey for Core Countries
Create a one-page template capturing local e-commerce
customers, online grocery trends and current distributor
engagement. Calibrate where each country is on a development
curve. Source best practices from distributors in China, India,
United Kingdom, and the USA where e-commerce maintains
highest acceptance levels.
2. Speak to Millennials
Spend time with young people, learning how they shop and
blaze through digital marketing messages. Learn why millennials
avoid “their mothers brands” and how many rarely make a
“stock-up shop” at a neighborhood supermarket. Another
revelation is the trust they place in online reviews and
key influencer recommendations.
3. Create a Global E-Commerce Strategy
Align with your company’s overall e-commerce strategy.
Establish benchmarks and toolkits to share with your
distributors. Acknowledge the fast pace of development,
allowing flexibility to pivot fast.
4. Distributors: E-Commerce Business Plan
Request each distributor create a 2023 e-commerce business plan.
Include new distribution targets, marketing plans, and shipment
objectives for e-commerce customers. Challenge distributors
to hire a young person to serve as a dedicated e-commerce
key account manager. Review each distributor’s e-commerce
marketing plan early and often in 2023. “A distributor respects,
what the brand owner inspects.”
5. Learn Online Marketing Tactics
Goodbye end caps and slotting allowances. Hello “pay per click”
and first-page search results. Unlimited shelf space exists in
cyberspace, with room for every SKU that you (and your
competitors) produce. Face-to-face buyer meetings are replaced
by online marketing menu programs and transparent sales
ranking information. Learn the new rules or you will fail the
e-commerce test.
6. Treat Amazon and Alibaba as Global Customers
Amazon revenue will exceed $500 billion in 2023, including
more than $400 billion sourced from sales of goods. Amazon
will comfortably rank as the world’s number two retailer, far
exceeding sales by Carrefour or Costco. Multinational category
leaders have established customer teams to service Amazon.
Many place their best, young talent against this high growth
customer. Multifunctional team roles may share the same titles
in Finance, Supply Chain and Marketing, but the “work” is much
different. What dedicated resources are assigned to Amazon and
Alibaba today at your company?
7. Consider a Web Shop
Direct to consumer represented a complex route to market in the
past. Today, new brands and leading companies are jumping at
the opportunity to showcase their innovation and share in-depth
product knowledge through their own proprietary web shop.
Outsourced supply chain experts exist to provide fulfillment
solutions. Tangible profits may be elusive today, but there is
valuable, inexpensive learning to be gained from pioneering
in this area.
8. Hire an International E-Commerce Expert
Appear as a preferred supplier to your distributors by providing
leadership insights into this new trade channel. Distributors in
emerging markets are hungry for best practices in establishing
e-commerce brand building models. Send your e-commerce
expert to core markets to conduct workshop training sessions.
Your investment in an e-commerce strategy and guru positions
your company as a preferred partner helping to build the
distributor’s entire business.
9. Appoint E-Commerce Distributors – Asia
Selling through the e-commerce channel requires different routes
to market capabilities and skill sets than marketing through
brick-and-mortar supermarkets. Consider appointing a separate
e-commerce distributor in advanced countries like China and
South Korea. A key issue is managing pricing equilibrium
between your conventional distributor and e-commerce partner.
10. Track E-Commerce Results
Establish KPIs and measure performance at key customers such
as Amazon. Are you getting your fair share of the growth?
E-commerce development is a top 2023 priority for every brand
and distributor. Some may say that e-commerce is evolving
slowly in their country or too complex and unprofitable to
allocate resources. These are the same people whose parents
were probably in the horse-and-buggy or fax businesses.
Enhanced focus on e-commerce will position you as a leader
(or survivor) for 2025.
Ten Tips: Ex-Selling at E-Commerce
418 USACustomers
How many are you selling to?
Export Solutions Retail Database Covers 418 Customers
284 Supermarket Chains 31 Natural Foods
46 Convenience Chains 28 Wholesalers
Up-to-date store counts
Direct link to retailers’ web sites
Financial information for publicly traded retailers
126 Canadian retailers plus 2,300 retailers in 94 other countries
Free sample access
Order now: www.exportsolutions.com
The classic industry question is: “How do you maintain
distributor focus on your company’s priorities once you leave
the market?” There is no easy answer, but a solution is to
encourage a distributor to “fall in love” with your brand and
company. Falling in love is based upon an attraction to a person
and enjoyment of spending time with them. The same feelings
can apply to a brand. I regularly witness super-human efforts
by distributors for small- and medium-sized brands just because
of “Brand Love.” Listed below are Ten Tips to romance your
distributors to superior results.
1. Master Chef Endorsement
The first step is convince the distributor team to be passionate
consumers of your product and enthusiastic brand ambassadors.
For food products, invite all of the group to lunch at a popular
local restaurant. Pay a well-known chef to prepare a meal
featuring your products. Or cook lunch for them yourself.
For candy and snack brands, provide samples to share with
the distributor’s children’s sports clubs. Provide frequent
and generous samples to all of the distributor team.
2. Fun Sales Meetings
Every distributor has sales meetings for their entire company.
These are usually a repetitive drone of Powerpoint slides.
Why not hire an agency to create a fun presentation module
which may include audience participation, games, or costumes?
Or sponsor a local motivational speaker or training workshop
using your products as the case studies. Break the mold of
boring meetings!
3. Provide Great Customer Service
Respond to requests quickly. Ship complete containers to keep
the pipeline filled. Pay all bill-backs promptly.
4. Distributor Awards
Recognize your high performing distributors with an award.
This could be Distributor of the Year or for $1 million in sales
or for 15 years of partnership. Some companies sponsor smaller
awards for key account manager of the year in each market and
retail representative of the year. Publicize the event by awarding
a plaque, hold an awards luncheon, take photos and share a
press release of the celebration.
5. VIP Visit to Corporate Headquarters
Treat your distributors as VIPs at your corporate office.
This trip creates a memorable bonding experience and a chance
for you to serve as a good host. Take the distributor to a product
development lab and organize a meal with your CEO or
executive officers. Make him feel like part of the family.
6. Support Local Events and Charities
Creative distributors drive incremental sales through local
marketing events. Display a willingness to support their
ideas and invest in new programs. Events that sync with the
distributors (or retailers) special charity build substantial
goodwill and appreciation.
7. Annual Incentive Trip
Many companies sponsor trips for distributor executives who
attain their annual sales quota. Mid-size brands source added
focus by sharing the benefits of a good year by inviting achievers
(and spouses?) to trips in resort locations like Hawaii or
international cities such as Rome. Everyone works hard
to qualify and vow to return “year after year.”
8. Holiday Baskets
Send baskets or gift packs to distributor employees that include
your product and other adjacent holiday items. The idea is to
extend your brand’s relationship to your partner’s homes.
9. Distributor Advisory Council
Form a small elite group of distributors to advise your company
on international development. Meet twice a year with access to
your company’s senior management. All members of the
Distributor Advisory Council will meet their sales target.
10. Treat Distributors as Your Best Customers
Be nice. Say “thank you” frequently. Send handwritten notes
to people to recognize a nice display or a fixed problem.
Have fun while you work.
Distributors may work with twenty brands or more, each
shouting for attention. Distributors support all their brands, but
there is no magic science to allocate time equally. Naturally, we
all spend more time and effort for the brands and people we like.
What can you do to make your distributors “Fall in Love?”
Ten Tips: Getting a Distributor to Love Your Brand
Need more information? Visit www.exportsolutions.com.
Export Manager Report Card
Assessment Criteria Considerations
(10 = Best)
Annual Plan Development, Execution, Delivery Aligned, reliable, committed
Export Experience – Food/Consumer Products • New to 20 years +
Ability to Influence Distributors • Focus on your priorities
Pioneers New Business • From concept to containers
Work Ethic • Office time vs. overseas trips?
International Citizenship • Language skills, cultural alignment
Category Knowledge • Viewed as expert: buyers, distributors
Business Leadership • Partners with internal functions
Distributor Relationships • From sales reps. to owner
Thought Leadership • Creates and shares best practices
Export Strategy • Logical vision and road map
Profitable, Sustainable Exports • Sells profitable cases
Retail Store Conditions • Brand presence vs. market share?
Brand Building – Promotions • Creativity, effectiveness, efficiency
Problem Solving – Response Time • Same day to one week?
Customer Relations • Senior access at top retailers
Analytical Skills: Shipments, Nielsen • Trends, opportunities, plan
Digital Savvy • E-commerce, social media
Supply Chain Management & Forecasting Accuracy and efficiency
Results vs Budget, Market,
Category (CY, PY, 3 Years)
• Flat to 10% +
Searching for Distributors?
Export Solutions Distributor Database Covers 96 Countries
3,161 Distributors
34 Countries
2,038 Distributors
17 Countries
Latin America
1,593 Distributors
29 Countries
Subscribe now at www.exportsolutions.com
Middle East Database Coverage, by Distributor Specialty
Saudi Arabia Egypt Qatar Kuwait
International Food 81 38 42 61
Beverage 18 11 15 22
Sweets &Snacks 29 20 15 33
ItalianFood 22 8 13 16
Total Distributors 116 61 74 93