FarmersWeb Guide to Working with Wholesale Buyers

Introduction

The FarmersWeb team has been helping farms work with wholesale buyers such as restaurants, schools, institutions, and retail stores for years. We’ve compiled the below information and insights based on the experience of farms all across the country to help any farm navigate the ins and outs of working with wholesale buyers. While each farm’s situation is unique and the information below is only intended as general advice, we hope it can be a helpful guide to your wholesale operations whether you are just starting out or looking to expand existing wholesale business.

Table of Contents

  1. I. Is Wholesale for Me? What questions should I ask, and what do I need to know before working with wholesale buyers?
  2. II. Marketing and communication with buyers: Market your farm, find, and communicate with wholesale buyers.
  3. III. Wholesale customer management: how to manage your customers and orders.
  4. IV. Wholesale record keeping: what do you need to keep track of.
  5. V. Conclusion: Putting it all together.

I. Is Wholesale for Me? What questions should I ask, and what do I need to know before working with wholesale buyers?

Working with wholesale buyers can be an important part of any farm’s business. While a lower price point than farmers market or other direct to consumer sales such as CSA, an efficient wholesale operation can be just as profitable if not more so. Since the volumes sold are larger, and the product once it leaves the farm has already been sold (unlike with farmers markets), wholesale sales can be a major financial component of a successful farm business. A lot of the work that goes into having a successful wholesale operation takes place before you get started, with careful planning and preparation.

Below are some questions to ask yourself and ways to think about your answers before starting or expanding your wholesale business:

What products do I have that I would like to sell wholesale?

While there is no set quantity of any given product you need to have to “do wholesale” you should consider which products you will be able to pick, pack, sell, and distribute (or work with a third party for this) in wholesale case sizes (as well as have these materials on hand).

These include crates, flats, boxes, and units of measurement such as bushels and pounds. While some restaurant chefs will actually prefer to buy by the bunch or other similar smaller units, the majority will be looking for flats of eggs or fruit rather than cartons or pints for example, and often product by the case or pound not bunch or individual unit.

What products do buyers want?

This answer can change frequently based on who your buyers are but also the changing habits or needs of particular buyers in your area. As a result, trying to grow or raise products based on their ever-changing demands is not a good way to start (see part 2 about special buyer requests). Grow or raise whatever products you do best. If you are a produce farm, the staples are always needed (root vegetables, orchid fruits, greens, and more). Once you have established a reputation for quality products, whatever they may be, you can talk to your favorite buyers about what other products they might like and expand sales this way. But in general, it’s better to do what you do best first, then think about special products based on new demand.

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