Designed in part to level the playing field for SMEs by getting them in front of buyers that may not have otherwise have noticed them, RangeMe is now used by retailers including Ahold, Whole Foods, Sprouts, SpartanNash, Sam’s Club, Jet.Com, LuckyVitamin, Gelson’s Market, Winn-Dixie, Bi-Lo, and Target, which now asks all prospective suppliers to make their approach via RangeMe.
The platform - which now features 45,000 suppliers representing 170,000+ products - offers buyers (who are inundated with unsolicited approaches from suppliers via online forms, email, social media, and phone calls) a more efficient way to manage these approaches, while vendor information is presented in a consistent format that allows users to rapidly find and compare new products.
Product discovery is a bit of a messy process
Online dietary supplements and healthy foods retailer LuckyVitamin (owned by GNC) – which has been using RangeMe for about a year - said it helped category managers discover new products that might not otherwise have been on their radar, but also saved time.
Colleen Erickson, category manager, health foods and general merchandise at LuckyVitamin, said that despite attempts to be systematic in the product discovery and vetting process, it is easy to miss exciting new products.
“We follow social media, bloggers, and journals, we do competitive shopping, go to trade shows, and try to be sponges and get all the information, but there are definitely times when we see something out there in the marketplace, and think how did we miss that?
“Right now [product discovery] is a bit of a messy process. Some brands, right off the bat you think that’s really cool, we want that, and with others, it’ a case of waiting and seeing, so it’s a combination of art and science.”
RangeMe vendors submit a product image, description and key metrics, such as gross margin, MSRP, full year sales, current retail customers, distributors, certifications (eg. USDA organic, Non-GMO Project Verified), social media followers and other information buyers are looking for.
It’s very hard to keep on top of what’s out there
She added: “We’ve only got four category managers covering almost 40,000 products, and health foods is our fastest growing category, so it’s very hard to keep on top of what’s out there. Brokers are putting new brands in front of us, but brands are also sending boxes and boxes of samples, some we have requested, many we have not, cold calling, making LinkedIn requests, emailing, and so on, and then you’ve got to follow up.
“With RangeMe, you can already see the kind of information you would get from that first call or email, such as which distributors they are using, what social media following they have, plus their margins and marketing spend information – all at a glance – so it saves time. If you’ve got a brand with zero marketing spend and a minimal margin, you’ll probably pass, so that information is really useful.”
Pique Tea: Using RangeMe is like filling in a common university application
One emerging brand LuckyVitamin recently connected with via the RangeMe platform is San Francisco-based Pique Tea, which Erickson had seen mentioned on a blog and then discovered on the RangeMe platform: “I immediately connected, they sent me an email saying samples are on the way, and we took them on.”
Simon Cheng, founder and CEO at Pique Tea, told FoodNavigator-USA: “When you are a small company, you do whatever you can to get buyers’ attention. We’ve been lucky because we have a disruptive product, so we’ve probably had more success than most by taking a bit of a shotgun approach. But RangeMe really helps level the playing field.
“LuckyVitamin was on our target list and within a month of going on RangeMe they had approved us; which was kind of mind-blowing, and made me realize that this platform could be insanely powerful. What I also like about it is that aside from the technical information you have to fill in during the onboarding process, you also outline your social media presence and provide some blurb from the founder and so on – so it’s an opportunity to really tell your story.
“To me, RangeMe is like common university applications; instead of having to fill in x-many applications for all the different colleges you apply to, there’s a common application starting point that’s accepted by everyone, and then you can supplement it as needed.”
Cold crystallization creates a higher quality product that retains its flavor and nutrient content
Pique Tea utilizes patented ‘cold crystallization’ technology that enables it to turn brewed tea into crystals which retain the flavor and antioxidant punch of the starting material, but dissolve completely into cold water (green tea, fruit tea) or hot water (black tea) so there are no teabags or tea leaves to dispose of.
Unlike traditional ‘instant’ teas, Pique organic teas contain no added flavors, sugars, sweeteners or preservatives and thus far are appealing to “health conscious females aged 25-45,” said Cheng.
“We launched in 25 Whole Foods stores in Northern California last September, and now we’re confirmed in about 450 stores including Wegmans, HEB, Gelson’s, Lassen’s, Jimbo’s, Amazon, Thrive Market, LuckyVitamin and our own website. We are also gaining traction in foodservice, high-end hotels,
“We’re doing well in regular tea category next to premium loose leaf and teabag brands such as Numi, but we’re also starting to get placement outside of hot tea in the water aisle, the grab and go beverage section, the ready to drink tea section and in some cases at the checkout.
“What’s really interesting is that while we launched as a hot tea, buyers are really excited about is our ice tea collection – tea crystals that can dissolve in cold water – because they are perfect for on the go beverages. What we’ve learned from listening to our customers is that a lot of people are adding our tea to a bottle of water and drinking that instead of buying bottled ready-to-drink tea because we’re just pure instant tea with nothing else added.”