When retailers talk about product width over depth, they’re not talking about the physical dimensions of your bakes.
They’re talking about the number of products you have in your portfolio. Five flavours of shortbread is product depth, i.e. variations.
Five types of biscuit is product width, i.e. variety.
In a recent rejection from a retailer (October 2023), they mentioned they didn’t want to take on a single line product right now. I was pitching a new line of cookies in the run up to Christmas, but I didn’t want to supply a variety of cookie flavours, I was looking to sell a single flavour, supplied in small amounts to a number of local retailers on a daily basis.
It wasn’t a hard no, they loved the cookies, but I realised it’s the same amount of paperwork to bring on a new supplier with one product as it is to bring on a supplier with multiple products. Nobody wants to do their groceries in five different supermarkets. Retail buyers are the same. If they can simplify their inward stock, they can sell the same with less work.
But how much width or depth is too wide, or too deep?
When I started my shortbread business I iced the biscuits with alcoholic flavours. They were a big hit and I offered seven flavours. After a year I reduced the flavours to four. They were all good sellers, but the logistics and stock costs of holding seven different sets of ingredients was a lot of work. By cutting down my variety and spending more time selling my top four, I could concentrate on increasing sales to fill the gap from the missing three. With less stress and less work, I could achieve the same sales.
As for product width, it would be a huge change to increase my product offering with additional products that I have to make. Instead I bought other brands wholesale, and offered them alongside my products. Some were better known than my brand, which implies the two products are in the same league. Some I could buy white label, i.e. unbranded and put my name on them.
It was a low cost way of increasing my product range without a lot of additional work. If the other brands sold well I might consider making my own version of them in the future, if it’s profitable.
The point is, I don’t have to keep inventing new products. I love doing it, but it’s not profitable to keep bringing out new ideas when you’re a small bakery. You need a core range you can sell predictably, then boost profits with new ideas and seasonal products.