No Travel Required: How Green Global Foods Wins Retail Deals Virtually 3/2/2022
Santiago Urti, CEO of Miami-based retail and foodservice distributor Green Global Foods is quite the world traveler. He recently had meetings with buyers in Chile, Honduras, Costa Rica, Mexico and the U.S., all in the span of two days.
And he did it from the comfort of his office, via ECRM Connect. “Think about if I had to go to an in-person meeting with each one of these buyers,” he says. “That would take weeks until we found the time, flights, and hotels. Going to Chile is an eight-and-a-half hour flight in itself. So the fact that virtual is here, it's really very helpful.”
Being able to meet remotely with buyers around the world is extremely helpful for Green Global Foods. The company, as its name indicates, is truly a global business, importing and distributing products around the world. “We are all over the place,” he says. “We import a few brands and sell them nationwide in the Unites States. We ship directly from Europe to Mexico and some countries in the Caribbean. In some cases we represent companies here in the U.S. that we ship to Mexico and the Caribbean.
Green Global Foods primarily represents better-for-you food brands. It originally started in the bakery category, but has since expanded into other food categories. In 2020 it launched its own brand, Primal Bakery, which offers a line of healthy, high-protein snacks and bread that is Keto-certified by the Paleo Foundation, vegan, and with no added sugar. Basically, everyday food products that are healthy.
One chief aim of the company is to ensure that every brand it works with is retail-ready for the U.S., ensuring they have the right packaging, ingredients, certifications and that they are EDI compliant as well as compliant with any necessary regulations.
“Our clients’ success is our success,” says Urti. “For all of the lines that we offer, we go through a process of making sure they are market ready. That can be challenging, because when you are working with brands from overseas, they may be very successful in their own markets, but they need to make sure they are set up for other markets. They also need to be set up so that they can sell to independent retailers as well as the large chains across different retail channels. Why bother coming into a market when you can only address a part of it? You want to address the whole market.”
LISTEN TO THE PODCAST INTERVIEW BELOW
This hasn’t been easy. Over the past two years Urti has had to address the rising costs and supply chain issues common in the industry. Prior to the start of the pandemic, a shipping container from Europe cost approximately $3,500. The most recent one cost $11,000. Add to this the shipping delays, both overseas and well as delays in domestic transportation rising costs, it can be easy to get frustrated about it all.
However, Urti takes it all in stride, adopting the Stoic approach of not sweating the stuff he cannot change, and focusing on what he has control over – and that’s his relationships and communications with retailers.
“Nowadays, buyers understand that some of these things are completely out of our hands, and we need to work together in finding a solution,” he says. “You need to have very clear and close communication with the buyers. It’s a simple as calling your buyer, calling your partner, and calling your supplier to find our what’s going on and being clear about the situation.”
For Green Global Foods, this meant expanding lead times from two to four weeks, and reinventing the way in which they manage inventory. But it all came from working with his buyers and relevant parties to find a solution together that works for everyone.
Expanding his distribution with ECRM
Throughout all of the challenges of the past two years, however, Urti has been able to expand his distribution both here and abroad through his participation in both ECRM category-specific sessions and in both Global Markets.
One of the biggest advantages of ECRM sessions over traditional conferences and expos, according to Urti, are the highly-curated meeting schedules which are prepared in advance. “At ECRM sessions, you know who you will be meeting with, so you can adequately prepare for the meetings,” he says. “Don’t get me wrong, I do attend trade shows like Fancy Food and IDDBA, and they are great shows, but sometimes you can get overwhelmed with talking to everyone who stops by your booth, and you end up missing the people you really want to talk to.”
'At ECRM sessions, you know who you will be meeting with, so you can adequately prepare for the meetings.' - Santiago Urti, Green Global Foods
And Urti has taken full advantage of ECRM’s offerings; in addition to the two Global Markets, Green Global Foods has participated in sessions including Deli, Dairy & Bakery; Snack; Diversity & Minority Owned Food & Beverage; and Keto Food & Beverage, as well as specific summits held by ECRM for Meijer, The Fresh Market, Costco, Southeastern Grocers and Wakefern. “We’ve gotten lots of new leads, deals, and part of the growth in our company over the past two years was because of this partnership with ECRM,” he says. “ECRM has become our tool to get out there.”
Green Global Foods is also a RangeMe Premium member, and the detailed profiles for each of its brands was key to generating much buyer interest at his two ECRM Global Markets. “We always try to keep our product profiles up to date,” he says. “We try to be as detailed and up-to-date as possible, and all of our brands are verified.” (Green Global Foods will be at ECRM's upcoming Global Market: Spring Buying Days).
The secrets of his successful buyer meetings
Urti doesn’t just show up and phone in his meetings, however. A lot of work goes into his prep, and he can’t stress enough how important it is for suppliers to prepare for each buyer meeting. “When you know who you are going to meet with – as you do with ECRM – and you don’t prepare, that’s sad because you are missing a great opportunity. If we have 20 meetings, we’ll have 20 different buyer presentations. You can review the information about the buyer on the prep site, you can visit their stores or website, learn what they may be missing, and what their objectives are.”
Urti and his team actually rehearse their presentations at the office prior to an ECRM session, in order to ensure that they cover the essential information and still leave plenty of time for Q&A, which he feels is very important. For his 20 minute meetings, he tries to leave at least 20 percent of the time for conversation. The presentation focuses on the products, their benefits, why they are important for the particular buyer’s objectives and how they will support sales. He stays away from company history and its vision, things they can learn on the company’s website.
He also discusses price, something not all suppliers are comfortable doing. “It’s important for buyers to have an idea of what their margin will be, and how the variables such as shipping, marketing may impact that,” says Urti. “You want to give them an idea of what they are buying, because they are not just buying a product, they are buying a program.”
And he always seeks to end with a call to action with clear follow up. He prefers buyers to be very straightforward with him, even if they are not interested, as he knows that a “no” today doesn’t always mean a “no” forever. Buyers change roles, consumer trends change – what is not popular today may be a hit next year. So he’d rather get a no upfront so he doesn’t waste the buyer’s time, and just keeps in touch over the long term.
After all, because of virtual tools, he’s seeing far more buyers than was ever possible in the past, which presents an abundance of new opportunities for Green Global Foods. “The market is so big, and there are so many people we can meet without stressing my travel budget,” says Urti. “And we can meet them much more quickly with virtual.”
Urti still does some in-person meetings, but he saves them for current customers as well as visits to his producers, where the conversations involve a bit more complexity. “It’s great that we can meet buyers around the world virtually and we’ve had a lot of success doing so,” he adds. “Virtual is definitely here to stay, and I really like that.”