There is a plethora of new product innovation happening with retail items at the moment with the majority being driven by young entrepreneurs, which I like to see. I get fed up with the continual brand stretch by the ‘big boys’ finding 101 different ways to represent the same product. What I’m looking for is innovation and something quirky to complement our food offer. The big brands can be purchased in any number of retail outlets – I’m looking for a point of difference for our customers.

As Procurement Director for bartlett mitchell I’m very keen to engage with ‘young people’, enabling them to ‘pitch’ their product to me. It’s a bit like Dragons Den bartlett mitchell!! If I feel their product has potential in our business I’ll arrange a product trial session. Six bartlett mitchell contracts have agreed to be a trial site. The supplier provides free stock to the sites to get the promotion off the ground and the trial runs for two weeks. I overview the selling to ensure our operating margins are not compromised, if we decide to list the product in the business. I also verify the price point is correct for our service environment (in work place catering) as people’s perception of value for money is much lower in the Staff Restaurant when compared to the High Street retailers.

During the two weeks the supplier visits the site to conduct a product sampling session with our customers. Then at the end of four weeks I review sales levels, after the first and fourth week to ascertain the level of drop off from week one. I then approach the trial sites for their individual feedback about the product. Following this I have a review meeting with the supplier. It’s at this point a decision is made to either list the product as part of our core range, or say goodbye to each other!

I’m fortunate to be working for an entrepreneurial forward thinking business that enables me to work with the ‘newbies’ in the market place. They are our future suppliers; they bring innovation to us but who find it very challenging getting their products listed. The large scale distributors will tell them they need demand/volume from the marketplace to list the product yet how can they generate demand if they can’t get the product listed?

I’m currently working with nine new brands.  Not all will make it but I’m confident most will. My door is always open to anyone out there with a new and exciting product to “pitch”.

Until next time

Steve Fox
Purchasing Director




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