How to find and keep customers
What are the comparative advantages to you of each market segment? Which segment(s)
best suit your intended operation and which one will you select as the target buyers?
Who are the other important producers that are likely to be in competition? What are their
strengths and weaknesses?
Who are the likely customers? Are these people also consumers or are they buying foods
that are consumed by someone else?
What are their age ranges, gender and range of wealth?
How much do they buy in a given time period and is it changing?
What are the factors that influence customers to decide to buy the product?
What is the total volume of food and the value of sales per month and what changes can
Where are the customers most likely to buy the food, and how often are they likely to buy
How does the product move through the market from the processor to the final consumer
and how much value does it gain at each stage?
How much influence do buyers have over the choices that their customers make when
buying the food?
Table 2: Questions for small-scale processors that should be used to decide which market
segment to target
Direct sales to individual customers
This type of direct selling can be used at
all scales of production, but is more
commonly used by micro-scale
processors, especially for products that
need a short time and distance between
production and consumption. Processors
may sell their products to friends and
neighbours or to people who pass by the
production site. The advantages are
direct contact with customers and
reduced costs to processors because
they do not have to transport their foods.
The main limitation can be a smaller
number of customers than other
methods of selling.
Retail and food service buyers
Figure 2: Nalini Chandrawathie holding a range of packaged
tea bags which have been dried and processed by a
For most small-scale processors, the
community co-operative. The herbs are taken to a nearby
retail and food service market
grinding mill and transported to Colombo to be packaged by
segments are likely to be the most
Expo Lanka Ltd but they aslo grind some herbs with pestle
important. Retail buyers include
and mortar and package them in small plastic bags to sell
owners of shops, managers of local
supermarkets, or in some countries,
locally for teas and herbal porridge. Photo: Zul Mukhida /
street vendors. In the food service
sector, the owners or managers of cafés, fast-food takeaways, restaurants, bars, guest houses
and hotels are each likely to buy processed foods from wholesale companies or directly from
local processors. Within the retail and food service segments there are many sub-divisions of
customers that have different and specific needs (Table 1). In some countries, producers of
street-foods may also buy small amounts of food each day from retailers or directly from
processors. Larger supermarkets, hotel chains or fast food franchises usually have centralised
buying departments that order foods in bulk to supply each outlet. For these, the volumes
required are generally too large for small-scale processors to meet.
In most countries, there are wholesale agents that supply retail and food service outlets,
particularly in urban areas. From a processors perspective, these agents are buyers that require