SaaS Platform Redefining How Manufacturers & Distributors Connect
The team at Attribytes, the software-as-a-service (SaaS) startup focused on changing how foodservice suppliers and distributors connect, are big fans of epic movies based on comic books. So it’s not surprising that they see their work as a mission to revolutionize the sector for the good of all.
“We want to be the superheroes of the foodservice space,” says founder and CEO Mike Kovarik.
It’s a goal that the young company, founded in the fall of 2015, is rocketing towards as more than 3,000 manufacturers and distributors flock to their platform. For distributors, Attribytes (the name’s a mashup of “attributes” and “bytes”) offers a solution that provides comprehensive information on the products they are selling and a better way to analyze those sales all in one system. Suppliers, meanwhile, gain insights on how their products are being displayed on distributor point-of-sale systems and see who is buying.
The company has employees in six different states and large enterprise customers – many doing over $1 billion in annual sales. Attribytes is a winner of the Arizona Innovation Challenge, and a client of Chandler Innovations, the city’s business incubation and entrepreneurial development program.
Kovarik says the key to the Attribytes platform is the insider knowledge of its dozen core team members.
“Pretty much every person on our team has 10 to 15 years experience at the most well-respected organizations in our industry like US. Foods, Sysco, Shamrock and Reinhart,” he said, naming some of the largest food distributors in the U.S. “We can provide what they need because we’ve done it all and we’ve seen it all.”
The $300 billion foodservice industry includes any food not consumed at home – such as meals eaten in restaurants, cafeterias, at catered events, or in facilities like schools or nursing homes. The sector also includes nonfood items, such as kitchen supplies and paper products.
For years there’s been an information gap between the makers of food and its distributors. Generally, distributors can get basic information on products through a network of data pools called GSDN (this is the nonprofit that also came up with barcodes). Attribytes is a certified GSDN data pool, but their platform complements and improves on it.
For example, when a dessert manufacturer was left wondering why sales of their products weren’t picking up, Attribytes discovered that of the numerous photos uploaded into the distributor’s product profile online, the only ones displayed were of the brown boxes they were delivered in and not appetizing pictures of lava cakes, chocolate tortes and crème brulee cheesecake slices served up on plates.
Attribytes works to bring together distributors and manufacturers to ensure products are most attractively displayed, ultimately improving sales.
Sometimes it’s not the photos, but the codes or descriptions that fail. Recently, a distributor was looking for sliced panini bread, but hesitated ordering from a manufacturer because the product description read “dinner roll.” Attribytes helped that manufacturer improve on their product description for better visibility moving forward. They also helped a manufacturer of plastic products like cups ensure that its “greenware” line was more visible on distributors’ online ordering systems.
For distributors, there is also a host of services analyzing sales, helping them mine their own data to identify new opportunities, pinpoint lost market share and have data at their fingertips for sales calls and meetings.
“We are helping distributors get out of clunky spreadsheet programs by making it easier to view the information they need to drive sales,” said Kovarik.
Attribytes aggregates all of that sales data into easy-to-read, digestible analytics dashboards.
Distributors are the main clients of Attribytes. Manufacturers can view their products on the service for free so that changes and updates can be implemented, but there is also a paid platform so they can see which end users are purchasing their products.
Along with other entrepreneurial services like the Gangplank cooperative workspace and the Arizona Commerce Authority’s Venture Ready program, Chandler Innovations has helped Attribytes during its launch, particularly helping Kovarik as he made the transition from foodservice distributor employee to CEO of his own company.
“It’s great to rely on them for questions as support,” he said, adding that he had particular help from Tom Fulcher, the Executive in Residence at Chandler Innovations, who lent not only decades of sales, marketing and development expertise, but his understanding of the foodservice industry. Fulcher is a former manager at food manufactures like Bumble Bee Foods and Heinz.