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Food Producers: Is Your Data Telling the Right Story?

In previous blog posts about how food businesses can be a successful partner to retail buyers, we've discussed how important it is to share data that only you have with your customers in the food supply chain.

Our goal at Crisp is to help food manufacturers be the partner of choice. However, while your data is important to your partners’ success, it’s far from the only information they’re receiving. They’re overwhelmed by both the data they’re generating and the data that’s flying at them from everywhere else—news outlets, other business partners, online reports, and more. And if they don’t have a dedicated team of data analysts, they probably don’t know what to make of it all.

You now have the opportunity to add even more value by becoming a data storyteller, taking masses of raw data and crafting it into a compelling, actionable narrative. Here’s how.

Customize the data

Each of your retailers and distributors responds differently to different types of data. That’s why it’s important to develop customized reports in response to their needs and goals—reports that can help them not only reach their business goals, but also look good to the people they report to.

Don’t know what these are? Ask your partners what their biggest business goals are and what kind of data they’d like to see. Then you can pull up the right data and format it in a way that makes sense to each one.

Make the news

At PetSmart, they have a saying about data: make the news, don’t report the news.” This means you don’t just share the data, you interpret it for your partners.

Before passing along any information, append it with “...and this means X.” Your job is to connect the dots and tell the distributor or retail buyer what X is. For example, maybe you notice that sales of your mixed olives dipped at the start of COVID, and now they’re higher than ever...and you also read a report about how consumers have been finding new ways to host gatherings. Your X might be that a retailer could run promotions on party foods, give more shelf space to food suitable for small, safe gatherings, or develop recipes for virtual get-togethers.

Structure your story

Remember how your high school English teachers required you to write outlines for your essays? They were right: an outline helps you think through the story you want to tell and craft a clear beginning, middle, and end that your retailer or distributor partners can easily follow.

Here’s a structure that works:

  1. Establish the context. Showing how you used the data to get the results helps build up trust. (For example: explain the trail of research you followed to make the connection between your mixed olive sales and the report on socially distanced gatherings.)
  2. Bring the story to life with characters—such as the distributor, retail buyer, or customers—who create change. (For example: tell the story of how consumers have adapted to social distancing regulations by creating these five ways to gather with friends and celebrate holidays safely.) 
  3. Recommend the right decision, solution, or action. (For example: recommend that your retail buyer create a display of food products that lend themselves to these gatherings.) 

This structure of an easy-to-follow story with a compelling beginning and a logical conclusion ultimately makes your story more memorable. Jennifer Aaker, Ph.D., a professor of marketing at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, says that stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts alone.

Get visual

Presenting your data in a visual way can help your partners quickly take in the important points—but understanding data and presenting data are two different skills. In order to format your data in a way that’s easy to grasp and tells the story you want it to tell, you need to consider the way humans take in visual information. For example, our eyes tend to jump right to images that are different in color or size from the rest, and in our culture we see red as hot and blue as cold. Ignore these conventions, and your visual presentation can become indecipherable.

Luckily, there’s no shortage of online guides that offer the basics, and food industry analytics platforms like Crisp include visualizations that do the work for you. Comparing successful charts, graphs, and infographics with less successful ones can also help you understand how to present your data.

Ready to add more value to your relationship with distributors and retail buyers? Reach out to us here at Crisp for a demo of our business insights dashboard.

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