Methods of Distribution: Why You Should Go the Natural Route like Ardenne Farm
Go directly to a retailer or go through a distributor? This question is one nearly all brands have wrestled with. As part of Hubba’s Methods of Distribution series, we’re exploring the different routes brands have taken to learn what works best for them. To kick things off, we speak to Victoria Lamberth, Marketing Communications at Ardenne Farm, and find out why they initially went the retailer route, why they eventually went through a distributor and how both options allowed them to grow within the natural food channels.
Ardenne Farm is a company that met the distribution challenge head on and won. They let their product do the talking when it came to marketing. Founded on the belief that gluten-free goods should 1) taste great and 2) be affordable, Ardenne Farm makes award-winning, gluten-free baking mixes that are all natural, Kosher, nut-free, and vegan. “We’ve really tried to innovate the taste, quality and texture of gluten-free [foods],” explains Victoria. “We set out to make a line of gluten-free dessert mixes that produce baked goods that taste homemade, satisfying, and yet be something the average family could afford.” Ardenne Farm learned the value of keeping their product planted firmly on the right shelves by ensuring that they are sold in like- minded retailers that serve their specific target demographic. And as for distributors? Once they started to see significant growth, it only made sense for them to go that route as well, and while there were definitely costs involved, the benefits far outweighed any possible losses.
Hubba: Where do you currently sell?
Victoria: We currently sell in approximately 1,000 stores throughout the United States (including Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Alaska) and in Mexico and the Caribbean. We sell in both conventional grocery stores and in natural food stores.
H: In terms of distribution, do you plan to expand in the future?
V: We’ve only been in stores outside our local area for about a year, so we are growing rapidly and expanding every day. Our main expansion area at this time is in the Eastern United States, but we are growing on the West Coast as well.
H: What type of retailer do you find works best for Ardenne Farm?
V: A great fit for us is a retailer who has an interest in expanding their gluten free offerings (many times an in-store dietitian is our biggest cheerleader). We are very involved with celiac disease and gluten intolerance support groups throughout the United States, as well as gluten free and allergen free expos, so a retailer who is involved in those kinds of groups/events is a perfect match for us. But, we also work with our retailers by offering demo opportunities, coupons, etc., so we work to create a demand for our products. Many times, a customer or groups of customers will request our products, and that will get us started with a store.
H: What type of distributor do you find works best for Ardenne Farm?
V: Our distributors have mainly been those who serve certain targeted stores or work in natural foods.
H: At what point did it make sense for you to seek out a distributor?
V: For us, as we have expanded beyond our immediate geographic area and grown larger, it became impossible not to use distributors. Our first distributor came about as we went from supplying a few local grocery stores to being picked up by the entire chain of stores (over 100).
H: What have you found are some pros and cons of working through a distributor?
V: Since it would have been impossible for us to personally deliver to all of those stores, we needed to use a distributor. As we were picked up by more and more stores and chains and became available throughout the United States, distributors only made good business sense (and a way to keep our sanity). There is a cost up front that took some time to recover, but we looked at it as positive growing pains.
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