NAGMR is a place for both General Merchandise brokers and Food brokers. Breaking into the field you might be tempted to just stick with general goods, but there are benefits to getting a food broker license and being able to help market food products to different outlets. You will want to examine what you desire from your career and consider which path really is the best one for your goals.
Consider who you want to work with. Are you excited at the prospect of helping an inventor get their new product into a national chain? This is the realm of General Merchandise. You would not need a food broker license for such a goal. While the challenges are many, they are not the same as marketing food products (which have a limited shelf life and need to be moved quickly). The pressures between the two are different, so you’ll want to be excited about the job so you can pitch it to the right people. If General Merchandise does not appeal, then perhaps a food broker license is better for you.
Both General Merchandise and food brokers work along the same lines. They connect new products to new markets. Where they vary is the types of merchandise being sold and the different businesses that those items appeal to. Getting a food broker license opens the door to work with specialty stores, delis, gift shops, small grocers, and even with larger volume health food stores in addition to major chains. While some General Merchandise might appeal to these places, they are in the business of selling food items so getting a food broker license is an ideal way to work with these businesses.
Both General Merchandise brokers and those wanting a food broker license need some basic tools. This means having a high school diploma (or equivalent) and at least a few marketing and business classes on the college level under your belt. The specific classes taken really depend on if you want a General Merchandise broker license or a food broker license. Food brokers should try to take classes that are focused on the food industry as opposed to general marketing and business. You might also consider working in sales for a while – either in the field or a related one so you have experience on that side and can pitch products to the director in charge of such things.
Being a General Merchandise or food broker does not mean working with the general public, however. The main goal of experience is on knowing what the sales person on the floor might go through to sell a specific item. This experience can help you sell to the wholesalers or retail chain directors later when you get a food broker license. Of course you also need to see the potential in what your clients bring in to you, so that you can pitch it successfully. Being unable to see the potential in a General Merchandise item is perhaps one of the best reasons to look into being a food broker. One can easily sample and share their love of a product they have had, so food can be an easier pitch then a product.
Before you go for your food broker license remember that the best way to get training in the field is to start as sales representatives. No matter if you do food or General Merchandise at that point, either is good training. Some find being a broker is easier in food then general items, so even if you want to expand later, having a food broker license is a good idea. It is suggested that instead of working with a big firm that you start your own broker business as your next step, because both General Merchandise & food brokers that can explore new markets and are not scared to take risks can be critical in innovation within the field.