For too long the food industry has glossed over the nuances inherent to the American appetite. Where we should’ve been looking regionally, we looked nationally. We focused on what the nation eats as a whole instead of what is being consumed in our own neighborhoods. And this logic would be fine if every single person in the United States ate relatively the same foods, but they don’t.
Take for instance, gumbo. The map below is a reflection of the amount of restaurant locations in each state that have gumbo on their menus relative to the state’s total amount of restaurant locations. What this means is that restaurant operators in Louisiana are nearly 7 times as likely as operators in New Mexico to put gumbo on their menus. Or put another way, if you are a manufacturer selling gumbo ingredients, don’t try to sell them in the Southwest or the Great Plains. Rather, sell the ingredients where they are actually in demand, IE: Louisiana.
The principal of creating supply where there is demand is not new, but it is sometimes overlooked within the foodservice industry. This is in part due to the ubiquitous need of some ingredients. Every restaurant in the country is going to need, say chicken, in equal measure. Consequently there’s no need for a Purdue SVP of Sales to target one territory more than any other because as the image below makes clear, the demand for chicken by restaurant operators is almost exactly the same across every single state.
But on the other hand, if an SVP of Sales for Avocados from Mexico is trying to determine which territories to prioritize, he should first do his research. If he can understand avocados’ prevalence across the country he might be able to determine that national, equal coverage isn’t necessary and he could then adjust his resources accordingly. In doing so, he’d be able to allocate more resources and sales teams to parts of the country where the demand for avocados is greater, like California.
With the exception of manufacturers of the aforementioned menu staples, all food manufacturing sales teams should use local menu data to determine differing demand across the country. The more a food item appears on a menu within a certain state, region, city, etc., the higher the demand for that item will be within that state. So the next time you are setting up to sell a new product — be it jars of salsa or canned pineapples — make sure you understand where your biggest opportunities are and adjust your resources accordingly. If you do, you’ll be able to both sell more and save more in the long run.