Suppliers pay for storefronts on the site (via an annual subscription) and get access to digital marketing and e-commerce analytics capabilities, along with analytics to track key performance indicators, including the number of marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales qualified leads (SQLs) generated by the storefronts, Knowde co-founder and CEO Ali Amin-Javaheri told FoodNavigator-USA.
“What we’ve seen with our other verticals is that suppliers initially use Knowde for lead generation purposes, and as they get more comfortable, they turn on the transaction side of the platform,” said Amin-Javaheri, who co-founded Knowde in 2017 and has raised $20m to date from backers including Sequoia Capital.
“If the supplier wants to turn on transactions and negotiate quotes and pricing terms and select a freight carrier and sort out credit lines, we take a small commission on the transaction.”
Buyers, in turn, “can go to one place and find all the ingredients they are looking for and not only see the latest information, but interact with tech and sales teams,” said Amin-Javaheri, who is initially focused on the North American and European market.
“Our objective is to become the single destination where people go to research ingredients, collaborate and buy ingredients.”
‘A lot of big suppliers think, they know who I am, they know my name, they will come to me. They won’t’
But if you’re a buyer or R&D professional at a leading CPG company, which already has a list of qualified, preferred suppliers, what’s the attraction?
There are several things that typically pique users’ interest, said Amin-Javaheri, noting that the Knowde model had already proved to be a success in other verticals, with 250,000+ users visiting the platform in 2020, a period in which the number of sales leads (MQLs and SQLs) increased 500%.
“There’s a lot of interest in these companies for researching new and trending ingredients, but also interacting with ‘unqualified’ suppliers. They don’t have the time and energy to scope the market out. We’re helping them scout.”
As for the notion that procurement and R&D professionals at big CPG companies already know who the key players are in any given ingredients space, and can therefore simply contact them directly, you’d be surprised, he said.
“First of all, most of these big ingredients suppliers, have, say, one or two account reps dedicated to, say, PepsiCo, so they think we’ve got that account covered. But think about the number of R&D professionals there are at PepsiCo; there’s no way that that one account rep at the ingredients company can get in front of the right buyer at the right time when they are in their buying journey, so why not make it easy for the PepsiCos of the world to find their products and interact with them?”
'Buyers have been very transparent with us about their pain points at every stage'
Some big ingredients suppliers often assume that everyone knows who they are and what products they sell, he said.
“But they’re wrong. A lot of big suppliers think, 'They know who I am, they know my name, they will come to me.' They won’t. Maybe they know you sell flavors, but what about all the other things you sell? Maybe you have a thousand products in your catalog?”
As for populating the platform, he said, Knowde had built tools that “allow us to basically ingest a bunch of content that’s already on the web and organize suppliers’ stores on Knowde painlessly. Because if you’re asking people to spend a month populating a platform, they’re not going to do it.”
Buyers, meanwhile, have been “very transparent with us about their pain points at every stage, from research and discovery to comparing, initial contacts, samples, and purchasing,” helping Knowde develop the functionality they are looking for, he said.
In the first instance, buyers want to know what’s out there, and to be able to compare “as many products and suppliers as humanly possible,” which over time, an online marketplace is uniquely well-equipped to deliver, he said.
They also want to access information and interact with the relevant experts at suppliers more quickly, he said.
‘It’s kind of like this industry has been stuck in, call it like 2005, for quite some time’
Asked to place Knowde in the context of other online platforms, he said: “There are generalist platforms put there covering every vertical, and there are also two or three vertical platforms out there, and I don’t want to criticize them, but they are more what I’d call lightweight listing sites that don’t have the depth of features that buyers and sellers want in terms of collaboration tools and workflows and so on.
“It’s like this industry has been stuck in 2005 for quite some time, and it’s our objective to bring buyers and suppliers all the latest tech,” said Amin-Javaheri, who said investors in Knowde “believe that marketplaces are coming to b2b, and the market we’re going after is one of the largest, and right now, there is no winner. This is a massive market that is ripe for change.”
Givaudan: ‘The next generation of product developers and buyers coming into the industry are digital natives’
So what’s the value proposition for leading ingredients suppliers?
“There are ways to go to market [ie. via Knowde] that allow us to reach a much broader market than what we can do via our direct and indirect sales force,” said Eric Spenske, VP marketing at Givaudan.
“A lot a lot of local and regional food companies also think Givaudan is so big, they are not going to want to work with me, and frankly that’s just not true."
He added: “I like to think awareness of Givaudan is very high, but our portfolio has also been expanding significantly over the years, and not everyone is aware of that, including some of our [existing] customers."
'We have become a bit more agnostic about how our products find their way to customers'
A more practical reason for embracing online platforms such as Knowde is that b2b is following a similar trajectory to b2c, he added: “The next generation of product developers and buyers coming into the industry are digital natives and they are looking for the kind of end-to-end buying experience they can have on Knowde.
"What you're seeing us do in North America is become a bit more agnostic about how our products find their way to customers, which is a bit of a mindset shift for us.
"For years we've talked about how ubiquitous Givaudan was around the world and we made statements like 'The average consumer might experience a Givaudan product 10 times a day.' Well frankly, if we want that number to rise to 15, we need to find other ways to market."