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Company enters juicy market

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Using the Internet to match Eastern Europeans who crush apples into juice concentrate with Americans who package it for consumption seems a daunting task. But Mike MacDougal, a Chicago-based wine trading veteran, plans to do just that.

WorldJuiceTrade.com, the first e-hub aimed at the global bulk juice concentrate industry, recently went live. It connects processors-those that buy fruit from farmers and squeeze it into concentrate-with packagers.

The exchange, launched by BulkMarkets.com, a developer of agricultural commodities e-marketplaces, is targeting a big marketplace. The apple and grape juice concentrate industry alone is a $2 billion-a-year market.

It is also a disjointed market that lacks a go-to Internet trading and information source-something that BulkMarkets.com's executives hope WorldJuiceTrade.com becomes.

"You can't just pick up a paper and find out what white grape concentrate is trading for," said MacDougal, BulkMarkets.com's CEO and co-founder, who previously was managing director of GSV International, a bulk wine trading company. "[Juice concentrate] is an industry desperate for communication," he said.

It is also an industry desperately in need of new technologies and the efficiencies they bring. Many of the processors who are potential users of WorldJuiceTrade.com are in regions where b-to-b e-commerce adoption is practically nil, such as Eastern Europe and South America. Technology adoption among concentrate packagers, many of them midsize U.S. corporations, is a surer thing.

An offline model

Today, most juice concentrate executives do much of their work as they did a decade ago. Virtually all trading between processors and packagers happens offline via phone and fax. Brokers act as go-betweens in nearly every deal.

Disparate time zones can make real-time contact difficult. And the shipping of juice concentrate, often in 6,000-gallon tanks, can be a cumbersome ordeal. The upshot of all these factors is an inefficient industry.

BulkMarkets.com's executives say their juice exchange will make the process more efficient by making it more transparent. Rather than needing to place many phone calls while seeking a packager, processors can simply post their goods on the exchange and real-time negotiations can take place on the site.

WorldJuiceTrade.com makes money by taking a 1.5% transaction fee. It also accepts ads.

MacDougal said WorldJuiceTrade.com will keep users coming back through its auxiliary services, which include links to shipping services, logistics and tracking information, and lab sampling services. The site also includes industry news, compiled by staff editors at the company's Chicago headquarters and in Argentina.

One-on-one marketing

Most of WorldJuiceTrade.com's marketing will happen in one-on-one sales calls to leading processors and packagers, MacDougal said. "The universe of people we are targeting is in the thousands, fairly well-defined and located," he said. "Our plan is to call on them, one-on-one, face-to-face to get them interested in what we're offering."

So far, the exchange has signed about 10 users. It also plans to run ads in juice trade magazines in the U.S. and Latin America.

WorldJuiceTrade.com's person-to-person strategy makes sense, given the old-school demographic it is targeting, said Sharon Beckett, CEO of Beckett & Beckett Inc., an Altadena, Calif., branding agency. "One-on-one calls in a situation like this are absolutely critical," she said. "There's got to be fantastic footwork in developing existing contacts."

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