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marketing strategies

For the Foodservice and Hospitality Industries

What is trade marketing?

Trade marketing is the set of B2B marketing activities that introduces a manufacturer’s products to supply chain partners ‒ the distributors, wholesalers and retailers/operators who will buy the products and then sell them to their customers, the end-users ‒ or use themselves. For the foodservice and hospitality industries, the retailer/operator is often a hotel, restaurant, or caterer ‒ the HORECA marketing segment.

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Why is trade marketing a necessity?

Manufacturers need operators to sell their products to end-users, and since operators make the decisions about which items they sell or use themselves, they have the power to determine whether a specific product or a competing product succeeds. Introductions to new products are done either by a distributor or wholesaler, or directly by the manufacturer, who need a strategic and customized presentation to convince an operator. Making things more difficult for manufacturers is the growth of large national and international chains, as well as Group Purchasing Organizations (GPOs), that wield tremendous bargaining power in these negotiations. Therefore, a smart trade marketing strategy can make the difference between success and failure for the manufacturer.


It is not easy to sway supply chain partners. First, there is a great deal of competition, with many manufacturers all approaching the same distributors, wholesalers, and operators, all offering special discounts and promotions, and presenting competitive pitches. Second, operators have limited shelf space, which means they need to believe that your product will jump off the shelf or menu, and earn them the highest profit margins.

how can you overcome supply chain resistance?

Be prepared to discuss product features and benefits in detail, with specifics about a relevant buyer persona that the partner can easily connect with. You also need to be very clear about the USP (unique selling proposition), the benefits and product quality being in synch with the price, availability, length of time required for production, shipping and arrival at their location, and your level of customer service. Possibly the most powerful tool in gaining supply chain acceptance is access to the manufacturer’s insights regarding sales and the factors that affect product performance.

what methods are used in trade marketing plans?

Trade marketing strategies include market research, trade shows, promotions, branding, advertising, websites, digital marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, content marketing, meetings, phone calls, contests and award programs. Here are a few pointers: 

Market Research

A substantial amount of research is required, and best to perform a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) of your product as well as your competitors’ products. You will also need to analyze shopper behavior, how they make purchase decisions, their demographics, their needs, and which trends affect their decisions. In some cases, you may need to redesign your product accordingly.


An updated, modern, professional website that accurately reflects your branding is critical. In addition to presenting your products, your site should also include quality content covering topics of importance to your target audience. And, it will be helpful to your supply chain partners if your website includes a full set of branded marketing materials for use in their advertising and marketing activities.

Press Releases

Press releases are a great way to introduce new products and announce product launches ‒ and trade shows are ideal for launching new products, so try to time your launch with a relevant event. Preparing comprehensive materials for journalists significantly increases your chances of being covered, so have the information available at your event and on your website, and hold a well-publicized press conference at the event. Take plenty of photos and share on social media. And, be sure to follow up with everyone who visited your booth.


Trade promotions, aimed at either consumers or supply chain partners, can include many different types of incentives ‒ such as coupons, temporary price reductions, multiples, bundles, BOGOF (Buy One Get One Free), prizes, giveaways, and award programs. Creativity is critical, and co-promotions with complementary items should be considered. Brand messages should always be integrated across marketing avenues, and sufficient stock should always be on hand. Developing fact-based documentation that keeps track of your promotions and measures their results enables you to avoid mistakes and reproduce successes. Unfortunately, most promotions are not effective ‒ since they don’t succeed in convincing new shoppers to try new products. Nevertheless, despite negative statistics, some promotions are wildly successful. An example was Unilever’s UK and Ireland-based UFS Chef Rewards. Largely successful due to the simplicity in how it worked and how it was marketed, participants included almost 50% of UK and Irish wholesalers, with over 8900 members registered and over 3k newly-generated leads.


Brand recognition is a key goal of all marketing activities, and since consumers often decide on purchases based on emotions, it is critical that branding creates an emotional connection beyond the product. For this reason, branding is crucial, even when marketing to supply chain partners. And, since everything you do reflects your brand, there must be consistency in your messaging and imagery across all media.

Trade Shows

Trade shows are ideal for trade marketing. You can network and build relationships with your supply chain partners, display your products, show how they fit with current trends, and check out the competition. Be sure to maximize the opportunity with messaging and signage that is concise and targeted, and create an attention-grabbing booth, using bold colors and moving images. And, be sure that your staff is knowledgeable, enthusiastic and friendly ‒ and knows how to explain your product’s advantages.

Social Media

Social media enables you connect with your target audience, inform them about new products, and learn about what they need. Foodservice industry marketers will need to understand how chefs and operators use Facebook and Instagram and other social media to locate recipe and menu ideas, keep up with trends around the world, gather insights from other chefs, and view professional food photography. To engage them requires an ongoing supply of relevant content, as well as asking questions, generating discussions, and responding quickly and honestly to questions and comments. Special offers don’t hurt, either.

Content Marketing

To maintain your audience requires high-quality, compelling content that addresses pain points, solves their challenges, and if possible, includes enticing videos. Content can be more widely distributed through promoted posts and trade publications, by using hashtags, and developing a reputation as an industry leader through frequent posting.

On-site & POS Display

Approximately 66% of purchase decisions are made on-site ‒ reflecting the bottom-line consequences of these displays. Tools include posters, banners, and free-standing displays, with large displays and those placed more than 15 feet from the entrance proven to be better attention-grabbers. And, needless to say, displays should be colorful and have a catchy call-to-action.


The first step to building a trade marketing strategy is to gather as much data as possible regarding your target audience, the competitive landscape, successful products, where consumers hang out, what they buy, who are the decision-makers, and where you could gain market share. You will need a system for analyzing input and preparing both tactical and strategic recommendations that enable intelligent decision-making. Sharing the data with distributors and operators enhances cooperation and increases profitability all around.


You can begin the branding process by developing a strong message that clearly differentiates your product from competitors, and has a distinct ‘look and feel’. Next, you should create or update your website and social media accounts, and develop content that can be used across multiple marketing channels. Then, build a plan for promotions, advertising, and PR. Assist operators with consumer promotions and marketing campaigns, and be prepared to monitor campaigns by doing random checks regarding freshness of perishables, on-site locations of your products, and staff friendliness and efficiency.


The trend today is to view trade marketing as an investment rather than an expense, and to monitor performance and measure results. This spending can include distributor food shows, corporate marketing programs, rebates, and discounts. Manufacturers are also expected to help raise operator profitability, with this pressure being felt through the expansion of GPOs and their increased spending. Technology also has a part to play, as it becomes increasingly important for manufacturers to integrate and plan trade marketing across their organizations, and to integrate it into their ERP systems.


Despite the rapid growth of the Hotel/Restaurant/Caterer segment, only a relatively small number of companies have developed a sufficiently strong market strategy to successfully enter this market. However, many manufacturers have recognized the potential and are beginning to set their sights on this segment, including those in frozen food, with a variety of products being created to cater specifically to this market. The opportunity is wide open for anyone ready to seriously plan, budget, and implement a strong, smart HORECA-focused trade marketing strategy.

Though trade marketing and consumer marketing have much in common, there are significant differences between them. The goal of trade marketing is to build a strong, reliable network of supply chain partners whose shared aim is to sell your products to the end-user. Trade marketing is essential for the ultimate success of manufacturers, for, no matter the quality of the product, without sales, a business cannot survive. And, to achieve sales success, manufacturers must understand the secrets of top trade marketing strategies. We hope that this eBook will assist you in achieving substantial and continuing success.