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Where and how to source vegan food and beverage products for your business?

Jan 6, 2023

Range of vegan, plant-based food and beverage products from new, emerging brands
Baiba Soika, Co-founder and CEO of Vegshelf

by Baiba Soika

Co-founder & CEO of Vegshelf

With a growing demand for vegan food and beverage products, it is crucial for businesses to take advantage of the opportunity and adjust their inventory accordingly. If you own a grocery store, coffee shop, fitness studio, hotel or other business that’s working with food, and are looking to offer vegan food and beverage products to your customers, finding reliable wholesalers, distributors or suppliers can be a time-consuming and daunting task. There are, however, several options for sourcing vegan products, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Let’s dive in!

1. Vegan and food beverage manufacturers

You can source vegan products directly from manufacturers that make them. Many of them are interested in selling their products in bulk to retailers. Most reputable brands have their own websites, so you can easily find food and beverage brands offering vegan products by searching online, via social media, or by contacting trade organizations.

The main advantage of sourcing products directly from manufacturers is that it allows you to establish direct relationships with them. However, if you're considering sourcing directly from brands, keep in mind that the process takes a lot of time. The first thing you'll need to do is find the brands offering the products you need, and then assess their business’ credibility. Once you have shortlisted the brands that meet all your criteria, you need to inquire about wholesale prices and trade terms to begin the conversation. This process needs to be repeated with every supplier you consider.

Even though some vegan food and beverage manufacturers have their dedicated B2B ecommerce shops, most of them are not tech-savvy. Wholesale orders are usually handled by email or phone, resulting in inefficiencies and human errors on both sides.

Pros and cons of sourcing vegan food and beverage products directly from manufacturers

Advantages and disadvantages of sourcing vegan food and beverage products directly from manufacturers

2. Wholesale distributors

Wholesale distributors are another option for sourcing vegan foods and beverages. As a middle-man between retailer and manufacturer, wholesale distributors have traditionally played an important role in the food and beverage supply chain. Wholesalers purchase products in bulk from manufacturers and then sell them to retailers or other businesses, leveraging economies of scale to generate profit. You can find vegan wholesale distributors by browsing online distributor or wholesale directories or by contacting trade organizations.

With hundreds of different products and brands to choose from, wholesale distributors offer a wide assortment. And, all of that through a single point of contact and mostly in consolidated orders for you as a buyer. Your store can therefore sell a variety of items from different brands thanks to this option.

Even though food and beverage wholesale distributors may specialize, most of their assortment will be conventional, making sure they can serve most of their customer needs. They will be very reluctant to take on new, emerging brands, as it’s too risky for their business, therefore if you’re looking for products to stand out from competition, perhaps the traditional wholesale distributor will not be your best option.

Another downside of working with wholesalers is that as a small business you will very likely be in the long tail of accounts that generate only 20% of their business, and thus your account will not get the attention and care it deserves. In addition to that, most wholesale distributors are very traditional with little to no tech-enablement of their businesses. Therefore, be prepared for a manual ordering process via phone, fax, or order forms sent via email.

Pros and cons of sourcing vegan food and beverage products from wholesale distributors

Advantages and disadvantages of sourcing vegan food and beverage products from wholesale distributors

3. Online wholesale marketplaces

You can source vegan foods and beverages from dedicated online wholesale marketplaces - the channel that in a way combines the previous two options. In recent years, online wholesale marketplaces have experienced significant growth in popularity among businesses looking to purchase products in bulk. All online wholesale marketplaces are digitally native businesses, so you can easily find them online.

Online wholesale marketplaces offer a convenient and cost-effective way to find a wide range of products. These marketplaces bring together a variety of wholesalers and suppliers, allowing you to easily compare prices and products from multiple brands, all in one place.

Most online wholesale marketplaces offer all kinds of products, including food and drink, which contains some vegan items. However, there are marketplaces like Vegshelf focusing exclusively on emerging vegan food and beverage products and hand-picking the brands they carry. Professional buyers on Vegshelf not only can discover hundreds of Europe’s most exciting brands offering vegan products, but also create their favorite lists, communicate directly with suppliers, place orders, make payments, and do reorders - all in one place and at no additional fees.

In most online wholesale marketplaces, buyers buy directly from brands' B2B stores, so consolidated orders cannot be offered. In addition to the other benefits, using wholesale marketplaces to source vegan food and beverage products could be your best choice, if you don't mind receiving your order in more than one shipment.

Pros and cons of sourcing vegan food and beverage products from online wholesale marketplaces

Advantages and disadvantages of sourcing vegan food and beverage products from online wholesale marketplaces

Several ways to find reliable vegan wholesalers and suppliers

Finding the right wholesalers and suppliers can be a time-consuming and challenging process, but it’s an important step in building a successful business. Depending on the size of your business, available resources and other criteria, there are several ways you can find reliable wholesale partners offering vegan food and beverage products. Sourcing directly from manufacturers, through wholesale distributors or online wholesale marketplaces are all great options to consider. With a little bit of online search, you can find the perfect option that meets all your business requirements and needs.

Which sounds like the most suitable option for your business and why? Share your journey with us, and if you need help, we are here -

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