Like Tinder for food SMEs?
The site, which was unveiled last year, aims to allow buyers and suppliers to discover, verify, match, connect, communicate in any language and trade.
Brexit was its original inspiration. "We were looking to see what solutions were out there for Irish companies in the food sector when their supply chains were disrupted,” explained Martin Fitzgerald, co-founder and CEO.
An Irish bakery, for example, buying a million euros worth of flour a month from a UK distributor was facing cost increases of up to 25% on that one raw material due to Brexit and needed to source an alternative. The process, Fitzgerald recounted, took around four months and involved language barriers, a lot of Google searches and too many bad actors, inactive profiles and out-of-date lists of directories. “We decided then there has to be a better way of doing this.”
The challenge in finding new, good quality national and international suppliers or buyers, and being able to establish trust is a huge challenge that takes too much time and costs too much money and resources, especially for mid-sized companies, believes Fitzgerald.
Kwayga’s solution therefore is to make it easier for buyers and suppliers to connect, establish trust and securely trade with other businesses anywhere, in any language, at any time.
Based on EU and its own data, it estimates most SMEs in Europe complain they lack information when expanding into new markets. Over 70% of buyers start with a Google search to find new suppliers. Around 60% of buyers say they don’t have the resources to do due diligence required to verify the details about prospective suppliers. Around 60% of suppliers say they lack the resources to be able to approach buyers.
How does it work?
Anyone can set up a free account before ‘extensive’ verification identify checks begin (premium accounts with more features cost from €75 per month). Then buyers and suppliers are ‘matched’ and able to connect. New matches are proposed weekly. Another feature is a deal centre where buyers can post live requirements.
COVID and Ukraine have further illustrated the problems buyers and suppliers face when unpredicted events create pinch points in supply chains. In the aftermath of the Ukraine crisis, for example, Kwayga has seen sudden spikes in certain categories on its site such as flour, edible oils, sugar and potato-based products. The crisis has also further illustrated the need to for food businesses to be able to properly verify the credentials of potential partners. Food safety experts, for example, fear that adulteration cases could rise as companies seek alternatives to those foodstuffs, such as sunflower oil, impacted by the conflict in Ukraine.
Young CEOs vs old CEOs
The platform’s appeal is being further boosted by the trend of millennials, those born from 1981 to 1996, taking over senior management positions within the food and beverage sector. They’ve grown up with tech and are more familiar with it, said Fitzgerald. “Millenials look at the status quo of in-person meetings, travel, flights to trade shows, the costs involved with that and the impact on their work/life balance and they say, 'there has to be a better way'.”
Younger managers, for example, are more accepting of verification and more comfortable with taking video calls to make initial contact with potential partners, observed Fitzpatrick.
"They don't understand why they should be constantly in airplanes, going to trade shows trying to develop relationships when they can do all that online initially then do the verification of the product production facilities do that in person later.”
There are currently over 3,500 users in 38 countries on the platform, up from only hundreds at the beginning of the year. About 10% are premium users and a quarter are buyers.
Kwayga plans to get at least 10% of the estimated 12 million food and beverage companies in Europe on its platform in the next five years. It also wants to connect not just SMEs but teams of buyers in large organisations such as private label suppliers, manufacturers, retail buyers and distributers.
“We’ve been described as being like a 24/7 trade show,” said Fitzpatrick. “We’ve built a trusted eco system where buyers and suppliers can discover each other, engage and connect in any language and trade.”
Other services are in the offing. “In addition to the existing and growing membership of suppliers already on Kwayga, we also have researched an external database of over 50,000-and-growing suppliers across Europe. In addition to digitally marketing these companies to raise their awareness of Kwayga, we are using AI and other tech to categorise these companies by product/service, location etc. So in addition to finding our buyer solutions from existing suppliers on Kwayga we also directly market and invite other new suppliers onto Kwayga to meet specific deal requirements.”