The third P of marketing is placing your product. This means getting your product out of your plant and into the places where your consumers can buy it. Placement is also referred to as distribution.

In this section you will learn:

  • about selling, wholesalers and brokers
  • how to get your product listed in a store
  • how to export to other provinces or countries

Selling (direct and indirect), wholesalers and brokers

In order to get your product to the consumer, you must go through distribution channels (the paths that your goods and title to the goods follow).

It is important to build good relationships with your distribution channels because they serve various functions:

  • reducing the number of marketplace contacts and resulting in a more efficient system
  • matching the requirements of individual consumers to the outputs of various producers
  • standardizing to improve the efficiency of the system
  • holding inventory to increase market response and lower transportation costs
  • physical distribution of products to ensure that they are available for customers to purchase on demand

Direct selling

Direct selling occurs when you sell products directly to consumers. Methods include home parties, door-to-door selling, telephone sales, retail craft shows, farmers’ markets, roadside stands and online sales sites, such as your own website. The advantage is that you get direct contact with your customer and can share your expertise about your product. The disadvantage is that you will not be reaching a broad range of consumers, so your sales may be relatively low.

OMAFRA's direct farm marketing business resources provide the following information for farmers who sell or wish to sell directly to consumers:

  • case studies of farmers who sell direct to the consumer through a variety of market channels
  • information sheets addressing the importance and uses of business intelligence and market research and social media
  • direct farm marketing best management practices
  • example templates of log sheets that can be used to gather key information for business decisions

Indirect selling

Indirect selling occurs when you sell to an intermediary, as opposed to an end user. Methods of indirect sales include selling your product to a retail store as well as using a wholesaler/distributor or broker/agent. Indirect sales can include club chains, hotels and institutions as well as any kind of retail shop.

Wholesaler and distributor are two different words used to describe the same thing. A wholesaler buys your product then re-sells it to retail stores at a marked-up price.

Broker and agent are also two different terms used to describe the same thing. A broker acts as a sales force to sell your goods. Unlike a wholesaler/distributor, a broker/agent will not buy your goods from you. Brokers tend to represent several companies at once and have strong contacts with the retail industry. This can help you get listed.

Be aware that you still must promote your product to the retail stores. The wholesaler or broker may help with that job, but it is mainly your responsibility.

Is a broker or distributor right for your business? OMAFRA has developed a distributer information sheet that will help you answer that question.

Explore e-commerce

Within e-commerce, businesses and consumers can interact in various ways. The primary models include business to business (B2B), business to consumer (B2C) and direct to consumer (D2C).

B2B e-commerce describes digital sales and transactions between businesses. In this model of e-commerce, shifting business between manufactures, wholesalers, distributors or retailers to an online environment provides the opportunity for reduced touchpoints and increased efficiency, operating much like electronic data interchange.

B2C models involve selling between an intermediary (for example, retailers) to consumer. Within this model, e-commerce tools provide lower fulfilment costs because manufacturer liability is lower. One option is to allow your consumers to pickup from the point of sale or curbside. If consumers desire an additional location, offer product pickup at an intermediary for an additional cost.

In D2C models, a manufacturer or processer sells directly to a consumer. Much like catalogue or mail order shopping, direct to consumer e-commerce provides manufacturers with control over the selling process. As touchpoints involved in order fulfilment are higher, in addition to increased packing costs, this is the primary choice when selling premium products. Within this model, delivering low product volumes is more effective through the shipping process. For high product volumes consider a pickup at a fulfilment centre.

Please refer to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) outline of the online opportunity for food and beverage companies.

This outline of the AAFC provides an educational snapshot for businesses to learn the constantly evolving marketplace within the food and beverage industry, to further adopt e-commerce and its online consumers for business, and how to develop those direct relationships with consumers through an online platform.

Refer to the Digital Main Street platform created to direct small business through digital transformation. Guidance is available on the adoption of digital tools and technology, creating or enhancing a website with social media or an e-commerce shop.

Some other resources to explore include:

Refer to the Information technology section of this book for more information on B2B e-commerce.

Finding a broker

Canadian retail grocery industry

Many of the largest retail grocers (and the general merchandise chains who also carry groceries) can be found as members of the Retail Council of Canada and are their own distributors. Many of the independent grocers can be found as members of the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers.

Find a broker by searching the online Yellow Pages or, a nationwide information portal for the food industry in Canada.

You can get lists of brokers for the US from the Consumer Brands Association:

1001 19th Street North, 7th Floor
Arlington, Virginia
Tel.: 571-378-6760
Fax: 571-378-6759

When selecting a broker, make sure you select one that fits the needs of you and your customers.

Getting your product listed

Being “listed” means that a retailer (and often a wholesaler) has decided to put your product on their list. In most cases, chain store operators purchase at least 60% of the products they carry from their wholesalers’ pre-approved lists. Smaller, independent stores operating outside of a chain may have more leeway to buy from a variety of suppliers.

Getting a listing in a large retail chain is not a simple process. Generally, to make room for a new product, the store will bump another product off the shelf (delist it) or assign less shelf space to another product.

You need to convince the buyer that your product is unique so they will put you in the store. You will also have to provide specific product/market information that shows how the product will succeed in the marketplace and bring more benefit to the retailer than a competing product.

Although national brands and private label products dominate the shelves in traditional grocery stores, there are opportunities for smaller businesses to enter the retail market. But to do so you must have a unique, quality product that meets consumer demands. However, the online world continues to expand and eat away the market share of traditional grocery stores, so many small businesses are using this avenue to get their products into the hands of customers.

For more information about listing in large retail chains check out the GS1 ECCnet Registry.

Exporting to other provinces and countries

OMAFRA helps food and beverage companies identify and maximize their export opportunities. Check out the Export your Ontario food products webpage for more information.

Talk to your OMAFRA account lead to determine markets of interest and you will be connected with the export marketing officer(s) who can assist with key markets globally.

OMAFRA also offers the Program to Raise Ontario Food International Trade (PROFIT). PROFIT is a series of seminars designed to educate Ontario agri-food producers and processors on the compliance regulations and market requirements necessary to export products to the US, including readiness assessment, legal considerations, facility preparation, export strategy, risk management planning, product labelling, freight and logistics. PROFIT is the only Canadian exporting seminar that is specifically dedicated to supporting food and beverage companies.

To learn more about our export services and programs, reach out to the OMAFRA contact centre and let them know you are interested in speaking with our export services team.

Phone: 1-877-424-1300


  • I have researched how my competitors are distributing their products.
  • I have chosen the best way to distribute my products.
  • I have prepared a list of the information required by retailers and brokers for my product.
  • I have talked to the retailers to see if I can get product listings with them.
  • I have started looking for a broker if one is required.