The Evolution of Foodservice Buying  6/14/2017

Having been a foodservice buyer for most of my career, one thing is clear to me -- the process for sourcing new products must change to keep pace with the fast changing needs of our consumers.

As a buyer, I sourced products for more than 200 clients – many in the University foodservice space, and at traditional food shows I went through an experience I’m sure many other buyers face - walking a large expo floor, and trying to grab samples and sales sheets from vendors who were constantly on the lookout for a potential whale. It was not the best way for me to find innovative products. It was no better for many of the sellers either, who spend days entering sales notes after meeting people they had no notice were coming by in hopes of making sales numbers.

Other challenges faced by foodservice buyers at traditional trade shows include:

  • You never know in advance what you will see or who you will meet.
  • You have about 90 seconds of the seller’s time to have a conversation and even then the distractions are many.
  • Follow up is unorganized and haphazard. The buyers get overwhelmed and the sellers spend hours entering contact information so they can spam the buyers for months on end.
  • It is difficult to reengage the good companies you meet with months later because the information is lost.
I knew that our system was broken a long time ago and in 2013 started asking the question; if no one had ever put a sourcing show together before what would the best be the best way to hold one in the twenty first century?

In February 2016, I discovered one of the best kept secrets in the sourcing industry, ECRM’s EPPS meetings, which eliminated most of these challenges in sourcing foodservice products, and I immediately canceled 14 food trade shows and redid my plans for the rest of the year to attend them. In fact, I was so impressed with the effectiveness of ECRM’s process and format that I took it a step further and joined the team myself so I could directly help foodservice buyers more effectively source product.

ECRM sets up the most organized buying events I have ever attended. For each Efficient Program Planning Session (EPPS), I registered and entered information about the categories I was interested in sourcing, as well as my strategic focus. About two months prior to the EPPS program, I received a tailored list of companies I would be meeting with over the two-day event. I could see their products on ECRM’s MarketGate platform and do research on the company prior to our meeting, and they could do the same for me. This made the 20 minute private meetings with these suppliers very action-oriented. I left that meetings with all my client’s needs met and we looked like geniuses.

In the videos below, I chat with some existing ECRM Foodservice supplier customers about the value they receive from participating in our EPPS meetings.

I believe that this organization has nailed the future of sourcing within the industry and I plan on making sure it is a great one.

To see the full playlist, click the menu icon in the upper-left corner.

Allen Hardage

Director, Food and Beverage

Allen is Director of Food & Beverage for ECRM, and can be reached at (440) 528-0469

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