The Grovara platform - which has helped brands from GT’s Kombucha and Pop Corners to So Delicious Dairy Free and ZICO Coconut Water reach overseas markets - was rolled out to vetted buyers in more than 45 countries last fall, said co-founder Peter Groverman, an attorney on a mission to “be the Alibaba that brings American brands [to a] global [audience].”
“Essentially we took what Alibaba did to bring Chinese manufactured goods global and used that as ground zero for our platform and realized that no one has created the Alibaba to bring American brands global,” Groverman told FoodNavigator-USA.
“We can bring any brand global in 90 days or less at a fraction of the cost it would cost for a brand to go global on their own with someone in-house. There’s nothing else like this on the market that provides an end-to-end service and enables buyers at major retail chains all over the world to have an Alibaba or Amazon-like experience where they can search for products, order by pallet or mixed pallet, and checkout.”
Unlike Alibaba or Amazon, however, Philadelphia-based Grovara has built a “curated ecosystem,” he noted.
“Brands are vetted and buyers have to apply to use the platform. It’s a trusted ecosystem. I’d say you typically would have at least $5m in domestic sales before using our platform, but we’re also dealing with publicly traded companies such as J&J Snack Foods. If you’re doing $5m+ in domestic sales, it’s cheaper for you to work with Grovara than to try and do this in house.”
‘There was a demand for American products, but so little supply’
Grovara - which counts data provider SPINS as its lead investor - handles everything from market analysis to documentation, invoicing and payment processing, logistics, and ongoing compliance with country-specific requirements on labeling or other matters.
It also provides users with a dashboard view of every element of the process, said Groverman, who stumbled into the export business by accident 10 years ago after a vacation to Egypt highlighted demand for a US product that wasn’t available locally, and quickly learned what a potential administrative nightmare exporting could be.
“I saw that there was a demand for American products, but so little supply. At the time, under 1% of US manufacturers were exporting. Today it’s still under 6%, and of those, 50% are only exporting to Mexico, Canada, or both.”
Some of this reluctance to engage is simply down to lack of time and resources, he said, with many brands laser focused on meeting domestic demand before even contemplating incoming inquiries from overseas markets. But there are also cultural issues, he claimed.
“When someone named Mohammed calls an American manufacturer saying I want to buy your product, they are scared; they don’t realize that the guy might be the buyer for a monopoly in Kuwait that has the capability of doing just as much business in his territory as you would do in an entire US state.
“The other thing is that the Obama administration had created incredible opportunities to help Americans export but not many people were taking advantage of them, so we educated ourselves and we’ve now become a thought leader in this space. I also helped draft legislation here in Pennsylvania to help promote American exports, and our company is at the forefront of bringing American wellness brands international.”
He added: “Our strongest links are with the Middle East North Africa, Central/South America, the Caribbean, Europe, and then South East Asia.”
Grovara is a B2B marketplace connecting US natural and organic brands with international retailers from Walmart Central America to Cencosud Retail, the third largest listed retail company in Latin America.
Via the platform, retail buyers can discover and connect with US brands, process orders, make payments and ship products. They can also benefits from insights from Grovara's lead investor SPINS.
One recent success story has been with GT’s - the market leader in the US kombucha category - which worked with Grovara to get its beverages transported via refrigerated cargo ship to a warehouse run by a third party logistics partner and then onto stores such as Whole Foods and Planet Organic.
Founder GT Dave told FoodNavigator-USA that Grovara has been a “great way to lower the barrier to export while you figure out the nuances of each country and their regulatory hurdles/criteria,” noting that GT’s is now the #1 kombucha brand in both of the above retailers in the UK.
CPG companies that use the platform pay an activation fee to get ‘export ready’ and will pay an annual subscription fee that varies according to the service level they sign up for, while Grovara also takes a percentage of each transaction conducted on the platform.
Buyers (who don’t have to pay to access the platform and search products) are charged fees according to the services they use, said Groverman, who founded the company with Abu Kamara almost a decade ago, and now has a team of 12 people (eight are full time).
“We basically spent eight years identifying all the workflows and processes required to get US goods into all of these different countries to build a platform that streamlines the entire process.”