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Most businesses seeking to enter a new foreign market do not have the contacts nor expertise to identify, assess and select the best local distributor partner for them. AMI has been selecting and working with leading distributors, importers and retailers in 130+ countries for nearly 20 years.
Below are some tips and advice on finding the optimal distributor partner for your brand in competitive export markets. In our experience, the best distributors should:

  • Import and distribute at least 15 well-known, often globally recognized brands.
  • Be category experts and distribute other brands in YOUR product category. They should be able to cite examples
    of “success stories” with other brands in your category, and be willing to share with you best
    practices. They should distribute “best in class” brands and products.
  • Be willing to invest in your brand, at least 50% of the estimated marketing costs. The brand owner should also
    support their brand and the local distribution partner, although it should be a shared commitment with
  • Have seamless logistics capabilities, including applying stickers or assisting to develop foreign language
  • Be responsive communication and timely responses to emails and information requests.
  • Have the ability to register your products quickly, accurately and without mistakes the first time. Speed to
    market is critical to a brand’s success in a highly competitive export market, and delays with import
    registration can allow competitors time to solidify their market position.
  • Have an involved senior management. Has the CEO of the distributor reached out to your CEO?
  • Be able to relate to you previous situations in which one of their imported brands had a critical issue, such
    as product recall or expired products, and how they resolved it. Ask them if they are still importing that
    brand today.
  • Have healthy margins and be profitable.
  • Achieve results and create a climate of trust, respect and mutual partnership.

If you ask the right questions of your prospective distributor, and receive satisfactory answers, then chances are you will be able to create a trustworthy working relationship with them. However, do not simply make your decision on a “gut feeling” – ask for and contact several professional references which the distributor has provided you.

Remember, selecting the optimal international distributor is also a two-way street. The good distributors are already very busy and in high demand, so they are assessing you, your brand and your products in precisely the same manner you are questioning them. This is a good sign, and gives the distributor further credibility that they are conducting their due diligence, as well.

If you are considering global expansion and increased distribution in foreign markets, then please contact us. For more than 18 years AMI has assisted over 100 North American food, beverage and nutrition manufacturers scale their businesses and enhance brand awareness worldwide.

By Peter Guyer