Within a period of just two years, VersTrade has grown into a successful platform. It is the online link between food manufacturers - from small-scale, artisanal products to major brands - and the hospitality branch and specialty shops.
Muhanad Alsalhi: "Together with Leo Nolen, I am the owner of Vers & Fijn Benelux, a logistics service supplier in conditioned last-mile distribution from distribution centre to shops and supermarkets. Listening to discussions within our network, we often noticed that small-scale, artisanal food manufacturers find it very difficult, if not impossible, to get their products on the shelves of the wholesalers. And the same applies to major brands as well. As soon as they develop a product, the wholesaler adds a private label on the same shelf. So, we started to wonder about the actual added value of the wholesaler. This is how we formed the idea of VersTrade: an online platform where the supply of a wide range of food manufacturers/suppliers and the demand from the hospitality branch and specialty shops could meet directly, without the interference of a wholesaler".
"The process is very simple and takes only three steps: food manufacturers/suppliers such as fruit and vegetable growers, meat and fish suppliers, or farmers register online via their PC or our app, and present/describe their product. Hospitality businesses and specialty shops can then place an order and indicate the delivery moment. We handle the logistics. When parties have questions, special requests, or they need advice, they can contact each other directly. They also agree on the price, making the whole process entirely transparent. The range of products is both wide and deep. When someone cannot find the product he is looking for, then we will find a supplier. When someone cannot find a supplier, then we will look for one as well."
"With VersTrade, there is no intermediate trade, which significantly reduces the purchase costs. The manufacturers of artisanal products – which we call the hidden gems – are given the opportunity to market their products on a national level, their brand name is always visible. Another advantage is that purchasers are not bound to minimum orders, making food waste and the subsequent costs a thing of the past. Just imagine that, in hospitality, 14% of the total purchases is wasted because the businesses have to order a minimum amount. And we refuse to follow that example." Last year, VersTrade was nominated for the Digital Transformation Award 2018, a contest for the most influential transformers of digital change processes. "We didn't win the award, but we were one of the finalists."
"In Amsterdam alone, there are 25,000 delivery vans entering the city centre every day, of which 20% go to restaurants, cafés, etc. Last year, there were 825 million delivery van rides, not counting the trucks, in the Netherlands. For the coming year, this number will increase to 905 million nationwide. Such figures are intolerable and have a huge impact on the environment, not to mention the economic suffering called traffic jams. We do things completely differently: we pool orders and deliver them from one of our depots to the purchasers, six days per week, and even at night. Our earnings model is that we charge a certain amount per delivery. We are currently located in Nieuwegein, but are soon opening depots in Utrecht, Amsterdam, Venlo, and Rotterdam. Suppliers can deliver their products at the depots, which means a huge reduction in transport movements. We are currently still using 'regular' delivery vans, but we want to use electric vans in the future and we are already discussing this with a number of municipalities. Within all our operational processes, we are doing everything to reduce the CO2 emission, amongst other things. We believe that sustainability is key."
"We have been operational for two years now, and are very proud of the results. Our main hurdle was similar to the 'chicken and the egg' issue: initially, we had a limited range of products, making purchasers reluctant to use our services. But we never gave up and, slowly but surely, we came to a turning point. We now have around 120 food manufacturers who joined us, such as De Bakkende Brabander, Happtoe, and Wild van Wild. We want to continue to grow and, naturally, invite all interested parties to contact us." Apart from the advantages when it comes to sustainability and mobility, we also have a fair-trade aspect: the food producers and manufacturers set their own price, often in consultation with the purchaser. "That makes the whole dealing fairer than when a price is determined by a chain or wholesaler”, says Muhanad. "And, by the way, we have great weekly offers which are called the Weekly Specials, which are determined by the manufacturers."
"How we see our future? Well, certainly very bright because we grow every day. More and more companies recognise our added value. We hope that, ultimately, we will be acknowledged as an important food service channel, a firm alternative to the wholesalers."
Source: © Vakblad Voedingsindustrie 2019