Taste the Connectivity: The Rise of B2B Platforms in the Food and Beverage Industry

Platforms: they’re not just height enhancing shoes, they’re online hubs where a great deal of today’s economic activity takes place. Bad jokes aside, the rise of ecommerce as a means of buying and selling goods and services is obvious and well-documented. Many companies have invested substantial money and energy into sophisticated online sales and marketing, and have reaped significant rewards as a result.

Just as singular brick and mortar retail locations have been challenged by all-in-one megastores, ecommerce has evolved to include not only single company sites, but large-scale platforms, or marketplaces, that compete on everything from selection and price to information and user experience. Across industries, rapidly evolving ecommerce landscapes are shifting the way that business is done, with new winners and losers being created on an ongoing basis. 

In recent years, a host of platforms have connected businesses to consumers, businesses to other businesses, and even individuals to one another. Headline stealing disruptors have shattered paradigms: Amazon has redefined delivery expectations with their sophisticated logistics operation, while Uber and AirBnB have challenged the notion of who or what qualifies as a cab driver or hotel. 

Business to Business Platforms 

For businesses looking to order and reorder goods, the right ecommerce platform can be a difference maker, and resistance is waning as more and more millennials assume decision making roles. One stop shopping and price transparency make ecommerce a no-brainer for the budget-conscious and time-strained purchaser, while increased personalization and functionality lead to an ever greater user experience. 

The makers of OroCommerce, a B2B ecommerce platform, tout the advantages of a well designed platform, “With the help of a proper eCommerce solution, a buyer can check out his/her custom price list, get quotes on interested products, and access all the product information she needs.” [1] 

Indeed, intuitive reorder options, flexible payment choices, assistance with importing/exporting and other features designed to facilitate barrier-free repeat business are valuable components to the ongoing success of an ecommerce platform. 

The benefits aren’t just limited to the purchaser. Human error during order-taking can be reduced, sellers are able to reach new customers, and, in many cases, eliminate the middle-man, while sales forces face reduced levels of travel and paperwork. Platforms that are integrated with order management systems allow for seamless data collection, invaluable to logistics efforts. 

“Today, cloud-based eCommerce platforms have order management systems built in, or they easily integrate with other software,” says nChannel Marketing Analyst Jillian Hufford. “Sellers can now sync order data across all their channels. B2B sellers can leverage their systems to automate order fulfillment and inventory updates along with handling complex processes like partial delivery and multi-warehouse shipping.” [2]

Business to Business Platforms in the Food and Beverage Industry

While the early rise of ecommerce found this sector under-represented, it would seem the time has come for the inevitable rise of online sales in the food services industry.[3] Amazon and others have led the way as consumers warm to the concept of shopping for groceries online, and a slew of up and coming business to business platforms aim to do the same for restaurants and other vendors. The platforms provide a direct means of contact for suppliers and buyers, increasing selection and bringing convenience to a potentially laborious task. 

TradingTable allows restaurant operators to order online, connecting operators, distributors and suppliers. Biolinked connects wholesale buyers worldwide with organic food suppliers. The platform allows users to create their own website, which can be used to display their products and promote their company.[4]

Artisanal foods are covered by Haywheel, where specialty food suppliers connect with upper-tier restaurants. Cater Nation facilitates catering by connecting restaurants, caterers, universities and government agencies.[4] 

Supp.li links food producers with hotels, restaurants, distributors and retailer buyers. 

Specialization and innovation are in no short supply, as Emerge specializes in Italian foods, while GoPato delivers food in Costa Rica via autonomous drones.[4] The trend will only increase in intensity as platforms continually emerge to fill any vacuum that exists in the landscape. 

The food and beverage industry have always dealt with logistical challenges owing to the perishable nature of much of their product. As a result, those within the sector’s supply chain are forced to pay special attention to time and information management, a trait that serves the industry well as the role of ecommerce expands. 

As suppliers continue to use these channels to find new markets, and as restaurants and caterers access an ever-growing pool of specialty foods and ingredients, the real winners may be the diners who hold the results of these collaborations on the ends of their forks. 

Cited Sources
[1] Team, Oro. “B2B ECommerce Is a Food Wholesaler’s Best Friend.” OroCommerce, December 12, 2018. https://oroinc.com/b2b-ecommerce/blog/wholesale-food-b2b-ecommerce
[2] Hufford, Jillian. “10 Advantages of B2B ECommerce Selling: NChannel Blog.” 10 Advantages of B2B eCommerce Selling Comments, January 10, 2018. https://www.nchannel.com/blog/advantages-b2b-ecommerce/
[3] “Sell Food (and Drinks) Online with Sana Commerce.” Sana Commerce. Accessed October 11, 2019. https://www.sana-commerce.com/e-commerce/for-your-industry/food-beverage/
[4] Vdovychenko, Helen. “7 Outstanding B2B Food Marketplaces That Inspire.” Blog. Blog, January 14, 2019. https://apiko.com/blog/b2b-food-marketplace/