Suggs – who has a background in finance, not food - first got the idea for PartnerSlate, an online b2b hub connecting small and medium-sized CPG brands with co-packers and suppliers, when a friend of his who had worked for a couple of food start-ups kept bringing up what a nightmare finding the right co-packer could be, he told FoodNavigator-USA.
Right now, many start-ups can spend weeks cold calling, emailing and searching online to track down the right co-packer for them, with many relying on word of mouth, networking, wandering around Pack Expo, IFT or the PLMA show, talking to contacts, or paying consultants to identify potential partners, which is time consuming, energy-draining and expensive, he said.
“I had a [PartnerSlate] user tell me the other day that you don't know how many hours of my working career I've wasted trying to find co-packers for products. The problem is also that a lot of times manufacturers don’t advertise or market themselves as co-packers, so they might be branded food companies that may have some spare capacity, but they wouldn’t necessarily describe themselves as ‘co-packers’ or be on a list somewhere.”
He added: “There are some online directories [of food co-packers] out there, and some industry associations have lists [for a fee], but there’s no one place to look, and they are often not up to date, or they’re just lists of names and phone numbers.”
At PartnerSlate, by contrast, CPG brands can search for manufacturers using a variety of different criteria from location, capabilities, product categories, and certifications (organic, kosher, Halal, gluten-free etc), to contract terms, volume requirements, batch sizes, and so on, and then rapidly identify companies that meet their requirements, he said.
“PartnerSlate offers not just a more robust database, but gives brands the ability to easily and efficiently search through and find the most qualified manufacturer for their specific product needs. There needs to be a better resource to help CPG brands to find all the necessary partners to get their products produced, packaged and out to market.”
“Ultimately, we want to be a one stop shop to help small brands find co-packers, ingredients and packaging suppliers, brokers and designers, but right now, for the majority of the brands that are coming to us, their number one need is a co-packer, because the co-packing industry is so challenging to navigate.”
Matt Suggs, Founder & CEO, PartnerSlate
The business model
To begin with, Partnerslate – which has only been around 18 months - offered its services for free because it wanted to build up its database (it now has more than 3,000 CPG brands and more than 2,000 co-packers signed up) but is exploring a range of charging models, said Suggs.
“For the last couple of months, we’ve been charging CPG brands a fee to use the service, and down the line we’d like to add a premium model for manufacturers and suppliers interested in displaying their own services. Many co-packers also need to source ingredients for their clients, while suppliers also want to promote their products to brands on the platform, and so on.”
A one stop shop to help start-ups find all the partners they need
He added: “We’re also looking at offering a similar service via the platform to help brands connect with consultants or brokers and designers and vice versa, so start-ups can find all the necessary partners to get their product produced and packaged.”