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Prize-winning online platform revolutionises F&B product innovation [Interview]

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1-2-Taste is an innovative B2B food ingredients and flavours marketplace, delivering tailormade solutions to customers both large and small. Co-founder and CEO Jasper Schouten explains how the platform benefits both suppliers and buyers; why the model has been successful; and what attendees at the virtual Fi Global CONNECT events can expect.
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Last week 1-2-Taste won the Prize for Best Starter in Ecommerce in the Netherlands at the Shopping Awards 2021.

“This is a great achievement and recognition from the industry. Winners before us are the industry legends of today,” commented Schouten.

Jasper Schouten has had an adventurous career in the food sector. After completing a Masters degree from Wageningen University in the Netherlands, working for major companies took him to Egypt, China and Dubai, giving him an appreciation of regional differences as well as commercial challenges.

“I also got to see opportunities out there in the market,” he explains. “SMEs would knock on our door and ask to buy, perhaps, 20kg of flavours a year, and we would have to say sorry, because this was not economically viable. This got me thinking about how we could better reach this sort of customers.”

Schouten conducted a global survey, and found that SMEs make up about 50% of the market. Traditional sales channels, often involving expensive flights and face to face meetings, were simply not adequately serving this significant segment. This led to the idea of a digital marketplace. Schouten realised however that this platform would need to host multiple suppliers, and so he ventured out on his own.

Quick uptake

The platform, called 1-2-Taste, was first launched in India. Customers simply need to enter the type of product they are looking for, and can narrow searches by category or application. There is also a chat programme to provide assistance.

“We chose India because we have a partner there who was very familiar with the distribution set up in the country,” said Schouten “India is also a huge, tech-savvy, super-competitive market, which uses lots of different ingredients.”

Sensitive to regional specificities, a Europe marketplace was launched in September last year.

“We saw the same challenges – the availability of raw materials and demand for smaller quantities – but also more demand for technical support,” says Schouten. “So we now provide customers with two pillars – ‘innovative’ food ingredients, and industry relevant service providers, in the form of freelance consultants.”

The platform also gives suppliers easy access to new markets. A European flavour company can find potential customers in India for example, or even expand within Europe into new territories. Schouten says they know they have to grow fast.

“We are currently in discussions with potential partners in the US, and are also looking at markets in Asia and the Middle East.”

The European platform currently has 24 suppliers with a wide spread of ingredients and 8 service providers, Schouten expects there to be around 100 by the end of the year.

“We have seen that it takes time to gain momentum. People don’t know you. Nonetheless we have been growing super-fast, at about 35% a month until COVID hit. After this dip we started growing again, and in the first quarter of this year, we tripled our sales from last year.”

Sample Stores

1-2-Taste is currently working to set up Sample Stores at the online Fi Global CONNECT events. The idea is that people can discuss ingredients, get insights and move onto sampling, just like in a ‘normal’ exhibition.

“This is great for the R&D people, who would like to get sample ingredients into their labs.”

Schouten hopes that the Sample Stores will also enable 1-2-Taste to get to know their customers better.

“We have a lot of traction on the supplier side, with companies wanting to be a part of this. We still need to learn more about customer behaviour. Ultimately, we would like to be able to notify customers when they need to start thinking about innovation, and what products might help them.”
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