I came up with a new type of natural breath freshener that I want to introduce in the US. How do I find commercial retail CPG distribution for my natural breath freshener?

This is a Quora question. My answer is as follows:

I am assuming you are a new company with a new product. If so, then I would first establish an online e-commerce presence through your own website as well as other third-party e-commerce sites.  At a minimum, you want to be selling through Amazon. Look for other popular e-commerce websites that sell consumer products like yours and consider selling through them as well. Examples for your product might include DrugStore.com and VitaCost.com. Online sales are important to prove the saleability of your product and hopefully, if consumers like the product, earn you positive recommendations online, especially at Amazon.

One you have been selling online and have a track record of sales, then you can consider retail, as retailers usually will not bring a new product in without a record of sales. Online is a good channel to build a track record for sales, but other methods can also include farmer’s markets, mall kiosks and possibly vending machines.

Understand your product category, which is Gums, Mints and Breadth Fresheners. Know your competitors, substitute products and be able to clearly differentiate your product from theirs. Know the dynamics of the category and what drives sales and where the category is going in terms of product development and consumer trends.

Front-end check stand sales may be a good place for this product, but normally, this is a separate category in a retail store that is managed by its own buyer. You will have to prove that your product can sell in the Gum, Mints and Breadth Fresheners section before being included in the check stand section.

If you truly have a natural product, as natural is a very broad-encompassing definition for consumer products, you may want to start targeting the natural/organics channel of retailers. Retail is segmented by channel and this channel includes truly natural and organic products. Examples of retailers in this channel include Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Wegmans. However, many mainline retailers are taking in natural and organic products, but you really have to demonstrate a good sales track record before you get into mainline retailers.

While Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are good natural/organic retailers to sell in, I would not make them my first choice. I would first focus on small independent retailers in this category. Again, you want to demonstrate a good track record of sales and more importantly, understand how to sell your product at retail. You want to know what in-store marketing and promotion vehicles help move your product off-shelf. You learn this by getting into independents first and experimenting so that when you go to the larger chains, you know what works. You don’t want to get into a mainline retailer and get kicked out because your product does not sell. If that happens, you may not get the chance to come back to that retailer.

To actually sell into a retailer, you use a direct sales method where you contact the retailers to present your product to the buyer. You can also use brokers, but you have to choose them carefully and will likely have to pay them a monthly upfront fee, in addition to a percentage of sales.