Commercial agents for foodstuffs

When it comes to the distribution of foodstuffs or semi-luxury foods and beverages in Germany, most commercial intermediaries in Germany are commercial agents. These often call their commercial agency an agency or commercial agency; possibly with a reference to the products sold, such as commercial agency or sales partner for wines and spirits or a wine agency in Germany.

In addition, in the German food, beverage, and semi-luxury foods industry, the term service agency is frequently used among businesses in sales and distribution. Usually, the large commercial agencies that call themselves service agencies offer their represented companies a variety of services at the point of sale; that is, in the large outlets of their customers in Germany. These include, for example, stocking shelves, rack-jobbing, setting up promotional displays, or offering taste testing promotions. The commercial agency or service agency is therefore also a merchandiser. Such services at the point of sale are usually desired by large-scale food retailers and provided for them on behalf of the suppliers.

Thus, the commercial agents for foodstuffs, beverages, and semi-luxury foods are divided into two groups. One group contains mostly relatively small commercial agencies that work with specialty retailers, specialist wholesalers, and the restaurant and catering trade, often selling specialties and niche products to this clientele. Many of these commercial agencies specialise in special product assortments; for example, confectionery or wine and spirits. On the other hand, there are the large service agencies that count large retail chains and food chain stores among their customers.

The commercial agents and sales partners for foodstuffs, beverages, and semi-luxury foods organised in the CDH, the Federal Association of German Associations for Commercial Agencies and Distribution, have classified their services which they provide for the businesses they represent and their customers in Germany according to functional criteria.

The contact function

The contact function of commercial agencies is fulfilled by representing the company represented and by providing a functioning sales office in the vicinity of the customer with staff and organisational and communication tools.

The sales function

The function of selling as the most important function of commercial agents and sales partners in Germany is fulfilled by supporting existing customers and possibly including co-supporting headquarters, regional headquarters, and regional distribution centres and by obtaining orders, including the delivery date agreement, monitoring, and control. Also included as part of the sales function, of course, are recording, reporting, and processing the territory and potential clients of the territory; thus the search for and acquisition of new customers and newly introducing products into the territory. This is joined by determining the purchasing potential of existing and prospective customers, conducting own exhibitions, and cooperating at trade fair stands of companies represented.

The marketing function

The marketing function of commercial agencies in Germany is closely linked to their sales activity. In the marketing function, commercial agents and sales partners in Germany plan the distribution of products, plan and monitor promotions, and plan the use of displays. In this function, they also provide scheduling recommendations, advice on products, and advice on other marketing issues. The brokering and support of test markets in Germany is also part of the marketing function.

The information function

Commercial agencies in Germany continuously provide information to the represented company about customers, competitors, and the situation in the German market. They also conduct special polls or surveys and make store checks to provide information.

Agencies also provide their customers with information from both their own sources and from and on behalf of suppliers.

The customer service function

Commercial agents and sales partners in Germany for foodstuffs, beverages, and semi-luxury foods also fulfil customer service functions. These include being part of in-house fairs of customers by assembling and staffing the stand and monitoring success. Other possible services of commercial agents in Germany include processing and settling complaints, training customers’ employees, designing advertisements for promotions, along with designing beverage menus of restaurants.

The merchandising function

The merchandising function refers to services at the point of sale that commercial agents and sales partners in Germany perform. These include rack-jobbing; maintaining and extending facings; doing secondary placements (dual positioning) and cross-merchandising; labelling prices; checking goods for best-by or freshness dates; dealing with condition, quality, breakage, and damage; dealing with returned or exchanged goods; returning goods; and checking credit notes.

The sales promotion function

Sales promotion functions are performed by German commercial agents for food, beverages, and semi-luxury foods with the following activities: procuring, deploying, managing, monitoring, and training own and third-party advertising personnel; invoicing sales promotions to customers and suppliers; planning the deployment and disposition of advertising materials; procuring, delivering, and returning sales promotion materials; and assembling and disassembling display materials, sales stands, and shelves. Monitoring the success of sales promotions and reporting on them are also part of the job.

The logistics function

Finally, the logistics functions that many commercial agencies for foodstuffs, beverages, and semi-luxury foods perform are to be mentioned. These include transporting goods, keeping stocks with disposition, control, and administration, and monitoring the freight forwarders.

German commercial agents for foods and beverages perform a variety of services not only for the companies they represent; that is, suppliers, but also for their customers. Of course, not every commercial agency in Germany will be able to and wish to provide all the services mentioned above, nor must they all. Which services are requested by suppliers and customers respectively depends on the product and the distribution channel or sales channel. The list above is therefore to be understood as a compilation of all services that can be found when looking at all commercial agents and sales partners in Germany in the various food and beverage industries in Germany.

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