Newly out of DTAC’s accelerate program, B2B marketplace Freshket raised 6 digit funding from an anonymous agriculture company in Thailand, including VC fund 500 tuk tuks to continue connecting food suppliers with restaurants through its online platform in Bangkok.
The startup is currently in pilot testing and working with 20 restaurants in Thonglor, one of Bangkok’s most trendy districts, to figure out what suppliers and restaurant owners need.
Saving costly time for small businesses
Freshket is the first of its kind to solve a deep-rooted challenge in the restaurant industry in Thailand that Ponglada experienced herself having started her career as a fresh food supplier.
“I spent four to five hours after midnight every night to fill paperwork for different restaurants, to sort orders and review bills. Every restaurant had different requirements for ingredients, and everything had to be sorted manually,” notes Ponglada.
She saw the opportunity to build a solution that would simplify the workflow between a restaurant and its food suppliers and replace the time consuming pen and paper process.
“By spending less time on ordering stock, it leaves time for business development, organizing staff and other more important things,” says Ponglada.
Restaurants can simply log onto Freshket and order the ingredients they need one day to one week in advance and choose the time for supplier trucks to deliver the goods. The pilot period has helped determine that demand occurs before lunch and before dinner, between 8-10am or 2-3pm.
Freshket’s platform instantly creates an online purchase order (PO) under the user’s profile consolidating the type, quantity and total price all in one document.
Ponglada recalls that restaurants in Bangkok order their supplies through fax, email or LINE chat app and can easily create errors because suppliers consolidate each order by hand which can often lead to incorrect deliveries. The automated PO fixes this as well.
Transactions on the site are currently made only through bank transfers but the startup is working to integrate credit cards or bank accounts for a one click payment. Freshket is also planning to allow companies to choose the logistics provider to deliver their goods, whereas currently all deliveries are handled by suppliers.
Challenges with traditional food supply
“We’re currently working with our partners to find out common trends in both delivery times and product selection,” says Ponglada. “For example, no restaurant wants deliveries at noon so we don’t prioritize this time slot. These details help standardize our offerings and maximize resources.”
It’s difficult for smaller restaurants to bargain with high quality food suppliers because they typically target larger chains or big scale businesses.
Suppliers are also known to hoard special produces despite demand in the market.
Both scenarios limit the produce selection available to the little guys.
Freshket tackles this challenge by connecting restaurants with food suppliers of all sizes and ‘smart farmers’ on one platform. It widens the assortment of produce SKUs so any restaurant can more likely find for example, a specific cut of meat or five different types of white shrimp.
Thailand’s army of smart farmers
Smart farmers are a new generation of business minded farmers that are producing crops based on demand forecasting to increase their sales. This can include selling only organic vegetables or a particular type of fruit that not many other farms are producing. There are approximately 100,000 smart farmers registered with Thailand’s national agriculture database, making up 10% of all registered farmers in the country.
Because smart farmers are located outside of Bangkok, business with them can be a challenge. Freshket must provide the right logistics and storage for farmers to scale operations.
Some smart farmers are also unable to process the packaging or customize produce according to each restaurant’s specifications.
Through this work, Freshket is collecting information regarding optimal temperatures, warehouse technology and freezer room specifications, to scale distribution for smart farmers on the platform.
What will Freshket ‘grow’ next?
“There’s a lot of potential for expansion in the region,” notes Ponglada.
The startup is eyeing expansion in 3-4 cities across Southeast Asia
“We would like to consolidate all the data we have access to and share with farmers what to grow this particular season because it will be in demand by restaurants,” says Ponglada. “Restaurants can also map their menu offering based on the seasonal crop during specific periods of time.”
Through data, Freshket will be able to evolve from a middleman platform into an agritech specialist that is able to project outcomes from industry demand.
“Everything we do is in steps. Freshket’s biggest goal is to tackle and modernize agriculture in Thailand, but we have a few areas in Bangkok to expand into first,” Ponglada comments. “One step at a time.”