The platform helps brands, retailers and manufacturers take an item from ideation to store.
To Michael Forrest, retail is all about the interactions between people.
“The cornerstone of successful retail is relationships and how well you can foster those relationships, both between a retailer and consumer and a retailer and supplier,” Forrest said. “Ultimately, how you deliver products to your consumer, whether that’s online or in-store, is a representation of who you are.”
That insight has plenty of learning behind it. Forrest is a self-described “student of retail” has 30 years of experience in the industry. Along the way, he played a key role on the team that launched the Apple Store, served as global head of customer experience at Microsoft and led retail operations at Samsung, among other roles.
Now, Forrest is the CEO of Surefront. The company makes software that’s designed to streamline the process that brings those products to market. The Surefront team saw a retail space where lots of information needs to come together to develop, list and ultimately sell a new product. This disparate information, in turn, is often recorded and shared using disparate tools like email and spreadsheets, with lots of data entry involved. There are tools to share information internally, and others to share it with outside partners.
Surefront’s system, in turn, sits between brands, retailers, suppliers and manufacturing partners.
“They have one shared, collaborative space to go from new product ideation all the way through to an ecommerce listing or B2B sale for brick and mortar,” said Doug Heckmann, Surefront’s chief solutions officer.
Surefront's team. (Courtesy photo)
This involves bringing together familiar tools for product lifecycle management, product information management and merchandising into one platform. A soon-to-launch feature will add product data syndication.
With the information that is presented, stakeholders can collaborate on ideas, view updates with visual workflows, manage price quotes and export listings to ecommerce platforms. These capabilities exist alongside tools that enable communication between the different stakeholders. So the product’s data and imagery lives in the same space as the chat that takes place around its development. Plus, it's in a space where it can be revisited at a later date.
“We contextualize all of the communication to the product and to the quotations,” Heckmann said. This means "it’s always easy to have a shared history that you can quickly reference and leverage for insight for growth.”
The collaboration and communication helps speed up the time to market for a product, Forrest said. When companies with a large number of SKUs are working to meet demand or get products out in time for a new season, that’s valuable.
At the end of the day, brands, retailers and manufacturers are all working to get the right product to customers at the right time, and at the right price.
Surefront wants to help make it easier for these groups to work together to reach that goal, and in turn delight both customers and partners. That sounds like the basis for stronger relationships.
The SnackFutures CoLab program is seeking "disruptively delicious" brands for its spring 2023 cohort.
The maker of Oreo, Ritz and Trident will offer support to emerging snack brands through a four-month program in 2023.
Mondelēz International recently opened applications for CoLab, a startup engagement program that provides funding, education and mentorship to startup brands. The company said it created the program to bring “big and small” together in the interest of promoting growth for all.
SnackFutures, which is the innovation and venture hub of Chicago-based Mondelēz, is set to hold the third cohort of the CoLab program in spring 2023. Applications are open through December 2022.
This year’s theme for the CoLab program is “disruptively delicious.”
“The team is looking for brands that are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in making a snack delicious – from flavors, to experience, to sustainability to packaging - as well as grabbing the attention of retailers and getting consumers coming back for more,” Mondelēz writes.
The program shows how CPG companies are applying the accelerator model popularized by software startups to create points of convergence with up-and-coming brands that often start by selling and marketing through digital channels.
Emerging brands that are selected receive a $20,000 grant. The 12-week program offers in-person workshops, hands-on experiences, virtual curriculum sessions and 1-on-1 mentorship. Participants also get access to Mondelēz International experts and partners. Mondelēz oversees a portfolio of brands including Oreo, Ritz, Philadelphia Cream Cheese and Trident.
“To be launching a third class of CoLab demonstrates Mondelēz International’s commitment to thinking and behaving as a consumer-centric, future forward leader in snacking,” said Brigette Wolf, VP and Global Head of SnackFutures, in a statement. “The startups that participate in this program tell us they are blown away by the access and attention they get from our experts and ecosystem; and our leaders and employees are inspired by the drive and discipline of these entrepreneurs.”
Startups must be based in the U.S., generating at least $1 million in revenue and have “high growth potential,” the company said. The startups must also align with the Mondelēz International innovation priorities and be in position to benefit from working with the company.Find an application at the SnackFutures website.