January 10, 2017, 5:21 PM

How Ahold USA is landing cool new suppliers

The supermarket company is the latest retailer to source products through RangeMe, an online portal of relatively small suppliers selling uncommon brands.

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Ahold USA, which operates online grocery Peapod and some 780 supermarkets across 14 states under brands like Stop & Shop, Giant and  Food Lion, is looking to expand both its base of suppliers and its scope of retail merchandise to help it differentiate from its competition, it says.

One way it’s doing that is through an agreement announced today with RangeMe, an online portal that has developed a network of small suppliers known for selling uncommon goods, says Nick Bertram, Ahold's senior vice president of merchandising strategy and support.

“Our category managers are always trying to find new and innovative products that customers want, and we have found that the innovation pipeline of small suppliers is really answering our customers’ needs,” Bertram says. “As we explored ways to bring more innovation to our stores, RangeMe emerged as a key enabler to help us connect better with customers. It reinforces our commitment to accomplish this at scale while providing our division customers with amazing products at competitive costs.”

Ahold USA, a unit of Netherlands-based Ahold Delhaize, declines to comment on the items it expects to source from among the nearly 180,000 products San Francisco-based RangeMe says it offers through an international network of more than 40,000 suppliers. But it joins a growing list of retailers—including Target Corp., Whole Foods Market, Petco, beauty products merchant Sephora, grocery chain Winn-Dixie and marketplace Jet.com—that have signed up with RangeMe to find products to re-sell that are not already offered by most of their competitors.

Among suppliers listed on RangeMe.com are Yeti Yoga, a provider of yoga mats that used the portal to attract Target Corp. as one of its customers. Nicholas Hyde, one of Yeti’s co-operators, says in a RangeMe.com blog that Target proved to be a good fit because the retail chain was looking for yoga mats manufactured in the U.S. with unusual imprinted designs.

RangeMe was founded in Australia in 2014 by Nicky Jackson, a former marketing executive for Kellogg Co. and other corporations. After starting her own business to sell a new skin care treatment initially designed to treat her daughter’s eczema, and finding how difficult it was to get big retailers to notice and purchase her product, Jackson launched RangeMe as a portal where small companies could present their lines to retailers looking for new and innovative merchandise.

Jackson moved RangeMe to the U.S. in 2015 and began offering RangeMe as a service at no charge to retailers and suppliers. Participation on RangeMe is still free to buyers and suppliers, but it now lets suppliers choose among two options to make their products stand out:

  • Premium Placement, at $499 per month per product, which displays a supplier’s product among a select few on a buyer’s dashboard;
  • Product Highlight, at $49 per month per product, which emphasizes a product with a blue border.

RangeMe plans to soon offer additional options for suppliers to promote their products for a fee. It lets suppliers pay such fees through credit cards, and stores their credit card account information through a service provided by Stripe.com.

RangeMe reported earlier this year that it received $4 million in early-stage venture funding from Simon Equity Partners and Freestyle Venture Capital. It plans to soon announce a round of Series A funding from new as well as existing investors, a spokesman says.

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