Food Broker: Definition, Job Duties and Skills
Updated June 24, 2022
Many manufacturers of food products try to successfully market their products in stores. Food brokers work directly with manufacturers and potential buyers to market products, negotiate prices and promote relationships between the two parties. If you're interested in a fast-paced career in the food industry, consider a career as a food broker. In this article, we define and explain what being a food broker is and discuss some of the required skills and qualifications.
What is a food broker?
A food broker is a sales professional who helps clients sell their products to customers. Food brokers negotiate product prices and in-store placements to maximize their clients' food product sales. They collaborate with storefronts and manufacturers in their region to build a professional network. They're also knowledgeable about the market, competitors and how to best promote a food product to potential customers. Food brokers may represent multiple clients at one time. Their role can be influential since they negotiate product prices and determine product placement within stores.
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What does a food broker do?
Aside from making sales and promoting products, food brokers conduct negotiations to help their clients achieve success in the market. A food broker has several responsibilities when working with clients, including:
Sell product to stores
Negotiate product placement and pricing
Assess current supply and inventory for clients
Create an actionable promotion plan for clients' products
Develop and achieve long- and short-term sales goals with the client
Discuss the discontinuation of products
Compare products with competitors' goods
Connect brands and manufacturers with potential buyers
Network with wholesalers, manufacturers and store owners
Evaluate the potential success of the product by conducting market research
Food broker skills
Certain skills can help you achieve success as a food broker, including:
Sales skills are important since the client may rely on the food broker to distribute their product in the market. These skills help the food broker discuss pricing, advocate for the product and make successful deals with stores and wholesalers. Typically, making sales can be a large part of this profession, so developing this ability may help you complete the job successfully.
Along with foundational sales skills, food brokers negotiate the best deals possible for their clients. Negotiation requires knowledge of the product and market, as well as the ability to draft an agreement that benefits all parties involved. It's important for food brokers to equip the client to achieve success while also maintaining positive relationships with buyers. Negotiation skills may help the food broker work with both groups successfully.
With interpersonal skills, food brokers network with clients as well as develop relationships with buyers in the region. Maintaining a large professional network in the industry helps food brokers pair client products with the best potential buyers. Implementing interpersonal skills may equip the food broker to expand and distribute products in other markets.
Customer service skills
It's important for food brokers to possess customer service skills. When making sales or negotiating with clients, food brokers often use customer service skills to communicate effectively. When meeting new potential clients, customer service skills create trust between the client and the food broker. Along with building a strong professional relationship, these skills benefit the overall success of the business.
Food broker qualifications
To become a food broker, many employers require a high school diploma or relevant GED qualification. However, higher education is a bonus that can help your resume get noticed by potential employers. If you choose to pursue a bachelor's degree, consider studying business, marketing, food science or a related field.
Since the job doesn't require higher education, employers might focus on specific skills or relevant experiences that suit the job description or industry. This means that any previous sales experience or an understanding of the food market in your region can prepare you for a role as a food broker.
Related: How To List Education on a Resume
Food broker vs. food distributor
Food brokers and food distributors, or food merchandisers, have similar roles in the same industry. However, there are a few key differences between the two positions:
Food distributors work specifically with product manufacturers by purchasing their product and selling it to the store. They act as the liaison between the two parties. For example, imagine that a food distributor finds a manufacturer selling a new brand of potato chips. The distributor purchases 150 units of the product. Then, the distributor sells those 150 units to a local grocery store in town. This eliminates the need for the distributor to connect manufacturers with buyers.
A food broker does not purchase any units of a product but finds a buyer for the manufacturer. The broker works to create relationships between buyers and sellers instead of becoming a buyer themselves. For example, a food broker receives a new client who makes and sells bottled cold brew coffee. The broker communicates with a grocery store that specializes in selling local products. The food broker negotiates a price for the store and executives at the store purchase the bottled cold brew directly from the manufacturer.
Food brokers work directly with manufacturers and buyers to put products on the shelf at grocery stores. Typically, brokers choose not to partner with multiple clients that sell similar products. By working with one brand, the broker may decide not to work with any of their competitors. This builds client loyalty and can facilitate trust between the broker and their clients.
Food distributors purchase from manufacturers and independently sell to buyers. Because of the difference in strategy, distributors may work with competing manufacturers to increase their likelihood of making a sale. Their loyalty may lie with buyers rather than the manufacturers.
A food broker uses sales-based skills, including customer service and negotiation, to successfully partner manufacturers with potential buyers. These particular skills are useful since their work revolves around putting products onto the shelves of stores through a network of clients and buyers.
A food distributor needs sales-based skills as well, but distributors also need the ability to make wise purchases. Strategic decision-making skills help distributors determine which products to purchase, as well as where to sell them to receive the highest profit. With a focus on buying and selling, distributors also benefit from strong mathematical skills.
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