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Changing Purchase Patterns

As we head into 2024, the B2B sales landscape, especially in food and beverage, is transforming. Wholesalers and distributors are now rapidly evolving. They’re adapting to the rise of direct-to-consumer (D2C) commerce. This trend pits them against the brands they traditionally purchased from. In this post, we will explore the trends for 2024. These trends concern food and beverage wholesalers and distributors.

2023 Trends That Will Continue in 2024

Before exploring the 2024 food & beverage trends, we must understand the current economic landscape. It’s crucial to consider the forces that surfaced in 2023. These will persist into 2024.

Consumer Pricing Pressures

The food and beverage sector will confront cost issues in 2024. Inflation and high interest rates are the main causes. Despite strong consumer spending, high commodity prices pressure manufacturers. Specifically, food and beverage prices challenge them to reduce costs, affecting profits. Critical operational costs, including transportation and labor, remain high, further squeezing profit margins. 

Private Labelling

Private-label products are gaining popularity as consumers focus on value, presenting a challenge for middle-market companies to compete effectively. As a distributor or wholesaler, selecting brands that meet end customer preferences is key to navigating the current climate.

Regulatory Challenges and Compliance

Staying compliant with increasingly stringent food safety, labeling, and sustainability regulations is a significant challenge for the industry. Businesses must navigate these regulations effectively to maintain customer trust and avoid legal issues. See this article for more information

2024 Trends for Food and Beverage Wholesalers & Distributors

Digital Transformation and E-commerce Growth

The food and beverage industry is increasingly embracing digitalization, as manufacturers see its value for gaining a competitive edge. They’re innovating to satisfy the growing demand for health-focused and natural products, marking a key moment in digital transformation. For established wholesalers, adapting to these trends is both a major strategic objective and a challenge. This is especially the case for smaller businesses, which may fall behind due to limited IT resources.

Explore how B2B e-commerce is revolutionizing producers’ sales in our detailed analysis.

Fortunately, you don’t need to be an IT expert to launch your B2B e-commerce website. Atrium enables you to jump into the digital era of B2B sales in a few clicks and for free!

Sustainability and Ethical Product Sourcing

In 2024, the push for sustainability marks a pivotal trend among food and beverage manufacturers, responding to economic and environmental uncertainties. This move is part of the broader 2024 trends for food & beverage wholesalers and distributors, emphasizing sustainable practices. Driven by conscious consumption, customers and business buyers alike are choosing products that align with their values, such as environmental care and ethical sourcing. Notably, millennials, now in critical organizational roles, favor eco-conscious and ethical options, influencing this shift. Consequently, companies are revamping their supply chains, sourcing, and business models to meet these new standards. The move towards sustainability transcends a mere marketing tactic, embedding itself as a foundational aspect of business, propelled by market demands and a deep-seated commitment to ethical practices.

Bypassing the Traditional Supply Chains: Cross-Boarder Sourcing

With rising materials costs, the food industry is one of the few that could face price pressure in 2024. The race to increase prices by some of the largest retailers and wholesalers meant that many consumers and business buyers alike are taking things into their own hands and looking for new suppliers from across the border. While consumer prices are protected by EU regulations, this is not the case for B2B transactions, where the largest differences can be observed among countries. Business buyers are reaching out to foreign suppliers and directly to international brands to bypass local intermediaries and access better buying conditions. This was also facilitated by the disruption of the supply chain in the post-pandemic period, which gave a further incentive to business buyers to diversify their dependency on local suppliers. 

People around the world | Sustainability in food and beverage

Online-only Supermarkets and D2C

The role of intermediaries in the food and beverage supply chain, like wholesalers and distributors, is becoming increasingly difficult as shoppers buy directly from brands on the brand’s direct-to-consumer (D2C) webshop and new online retailers are challenging traditional retail sales with an asset-light, online-only supermarkets like Crisp and PicNic, who are also buying directly from brands and producers thus skipping traditional wholesale. 

The Drive for Differentiation

Business buyers expect more than just a good assortment and good service. To thrive as an intermediary and preserve their role in the chain, wholesalers and distributors must differentiate themselves by staying on top of the latest products and brands, improving the ordering experience with a dedicated B2B portal, and becoming trusted advisors by collaborating with customers. 

Low-emission Last-Mile Distribution

As cities impose limits on the traffic in highly urbanized areas, last-mile distribution needs to quickly evolve to low or no emissions. Many logistic companies have already adapted and even launched fully electric fleets (see here our article), but this is not yet the case for many established wholesalers or niche distributors, who often still use Diesel-based vehicles. This change in the regulatory environment might force them to outsource logistics or update their transportation fleet. 

Mobile Commerce and Omnichannel Strategies

Mobile e-commerce | Food and beverage

The pivot to omnichannel commerce creates both challenges and opportunities for food and beverage brands. Delivering a seamless experience can earn customer loyalty in a nascent online market​​. Furthermore, even before COVID, these brands were moving online to serve their customers and drive future growth​​.

The Rise of AI and Data Analytics

The right digital strategies, including AI and data analytics, can provide a variety of benefits to food and beverage companies, from addressing labor costs to optimizing processes and operations​​.

Key Trends Shaping B2B e-commerce in 2024

The acceleration of digital sales is a starting point for any wholesaler or distributor looking to thrive in the current economic climate. When choosing a B2B e-commerce provider, it’s essential to consider some of the most important factors shaping the future of digital sales. CRM and Sales platform specialist Hubspot lays out the most important features to assess for. 

  • Mobile Optimization: Increasingly vital, as more B2B transactions happen on mobile devices;
  • Personalized Discounting and pricing: Online buying continues to become more tailored and individualized to match offline agreements with each customer;
  • E-commerce Automation: Tools that automate sales processes, remove redundant steps, and save massive time for both buyers and sellers;
  • Product Discovery: appealing design and searchable, interactive product catalogs are  key factors in driving the discovery of new products and increasing sales from your existing customers;
  • Sales analytics: Essential for understanding customer preferences and buying behavior;
  • Images and Video Content: Not just for B2C brands anymore. B2B will increasingly use video for marketing and engagement;
  • Sustainability information and production data: which is becoming more important as environmental concerns grow;
  • Seamless integration with logistics: to ensure a perfect customer experience post-purchase 

Discover the best B2B e-commerce solutions for the Dutch food industry to stay ahead in the digital curve.

Step-by-Step Guide for Wholesalers and Distributors

Atrium Sign up page | Food and beverage

Create Your Account for Free

Begin by choosing your company and signing up with your business email. Add your business details and shipping conditions to the platform. One of the key advantages of Atrium is that there are no fixed costs, and it’s free to use indefinitely​​.

Upload Your Products

Easily create your product listings by uploading pictures, detailing ingredients, and setting different price bundles. Atrium also offers assistance with product 

Share the Link with Customers

Utilize the platform to invite your customers to view your B2B webshop. You can share the link via WhatsApp or email, and even integrate it into your website. This step is crucial for promoting your online storefront and expanding your customer reach.

Automated Post-Order Process

Atrium streamlines the post-order process by automatically informing your customers about the status of their orders and generating invoices. This automation enhances operational efficiency and improves the customer experience.

2024 Trends for the Food and Beverage Wholesalers and Distributors: Conclusion

As 2024 looms, the food and beverage industry faces a transformative era, especially for wholesalers and distributors. The rise of D2C commerce, increased emphasis on sustainability, and the shift to digital and e-commerce platforms are shaping the future of this sector. Wholesalers and distributors need to adapt quickly to these changes, embracing new technologies like AI, data analytics, and omnichannel strategies, while also focusing on sustainability and ethical sourcing.

In this rapidly evolving landscape, differentiation and innovation are key. Offering personalized experiences, leveraging e-commerce automation, and providing sustainability information becomes crucial. Adapting to low-emission distribution models and utilizing mobile commerce is also essential for staying competitive.

The industry’s shift is not without its challenges, but it also presents immense opportunities for those willing to innovate and adapt. Platforms like Atrium can provide the necessary tools and insights to thrive in this new era, making it easier for businesses to transition into the digital future of B2B sales.

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