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Some foodservice distributors, like food operators are afraid to make big leaps into the digital world of e-commerce. The rationale is that they have all been doing business in a certain way for years, sometimes decades; so why change a winning horse.

But one thing Covid-19 has made abundantly clear is that shopping online can work. Moreover, it has shown that businesses that don’t take the leap to E-Commerce, will eventually fall behind. Most likely sooner rather than later. When the traditional horse is starting to lag behind, it’s time for a change. This is as true for food suppliers as it is for any other business. 

We at Cheetah have learned from experience that a good distribution system and a seamless user experience in the ordering process can be the key to survival. After a successful pilot in the Bay Area we are confident we can make the difference for others. But let’s go back a bit, how did we get here?

The Evolution of Food Distributors in E-Commerce

food distributor

Believe it or not, e-commerce actually started in the 1970s with various experiments, some enabling customers to buy through their TV (remember those? it’s what people used for entertainment before smartphones).

Many more consumer goods companies joined the trend throughout the 80’s and 90’s. But the real revolution started in 1994 with the launch of Amazon.com as an online marketplace for books. By 2015 it accounted for over half of the growth in e-commerce and today it is the largest online marketplace selling almost anything a private consumer may want, from socks to apples to tables.

“Apples” were the last to join this trend with food being the last hold out against e-commerce for most people. This is no longer the case with an annual growth rate of over 20% in 2019 and likely to be higher in the coming years especially since the pandemic has migrated people over to online shopping faster than expected and they are not likely to go back.

Major Food Distributors Are Launching E-Commerce Platforms

food distributor us foods e-commerce

As the private market grew, so did the business to business market. But here too, food, which requires complex logistics to be delivered fresh, was a late adopter with US Foods, the second largest foodservice distributor, launching an online platform only 7 years ago. Today however, the major food distributors are all launching e-commerce platforms.

4 out of 5 Americans currently shop online and millennials currently make 60% of their purchases online. As this generation gets older and takes up management positions, they will increasingly expect the same service for their business as they do in their private lives.

75 %
of buyers previously research their purchase online
85 %
of all buyer-seller relationships will be managed with no human interaction by 2021
93 %
of B2B buyers want to make their purchase online

The convenience of ordering online paired with the lower prices that the bigger companies can achieve due to economies of scale (like being able to sell more for less), is likely to push out the smaller distributors if they do not stay ahead of the technological curve.

A 2019 report shows that it is the largest distributors that offer the best experience for those shopping online. But staying ahead of the curve is easier than you might think.

Cheetah's Successful Pilot

Cheetah has been serving small to medium sized businesses for years. We offer food operators next-day delivery of high quality fresh produce through an e-commerce experience. Our sales team supports our customers with advanced tools that enhance their productivity both to close deals, but also to increase customers’ purchases. 

Our mission has always been to help small to medium-sized businesses thrive. Now, after our successful pilot when we battle-tested our technology with thousands of clients, we decided it’s time to move on to food distributors.

For the first time, distributors have access to a top-notch technology, so that they can make the leap to the digital world without losing business or making devastating mistakes. With this, distributors can now offer their customers the service they expect with the confidence they need.

Fully Customizable E-Commerce Suite for Food Distributors

With our fully customizable E-Commerce Suite for Food Distributors you can manage your whole customer journey, bringing tangible improvements to Acquisition, Activation, Retention and Growth. Enhance your sales team’s performance and let your customers order when they want, how they want with with our technology.

You know you have to up your game because e-commerce is here to stay. Don’t waste time and money building your own system – we’ve already done it for you!

Contact us to hear more about how we can help you improve your revenue with less overhead.

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